A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Back to Issue Eleven


"Erev Shabbat, I Become Matriarch" by Barbara Rockman

Erev Shabbat, I Become Matriarch

Because days are long and daughters in far off cities

Because times are dire       hope slim       sleep fitful

we fear our country’s cruelties

we are lonely       two Jews

in a house too dark


I pull my grandmother’s crooked candlesticks

from the cupboard       set them by the sink

The silver is thin       embossed with grape vines

With a white cloth       I clean tarnished crevices

With another       I buff to bright sheen


I rummage the drawer for tapers

shave and twist them to fit

turn the tilting and bent silver bases

so the grape-roped pedestals

are as even as they will get


At sunset I ignite wicks       stand and

beckon light with open palms

What I have been awkward with I need

My mother is long dead


No one complains that we

say sabbath prayers in language

more rhythm and blood than commitment


I do not bake but buy challah

Jewish husband and I tear into

there is no wine


and       yet       briefly

we are blessed and

enter briefly       rest

Barbara Rockman

Barbara Rockman is the author of Sting and Nest (Sunstone Press, 2011), winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, and to cleave (University of New Mexico Press, 2019), winner of the National Press Women Book Prize and a finalist for the International Book Award. Her poems are published in Calyx, Thrush, Bellingham Review, Hobart, and Split Rock Review. She has received the Baskerville Publishers Prize, the MacGuffin Poets Hunt Prize, Southwest Writers Poetry Prize and the New Mexico Discovery Award.



Barbara Rockman