by Leslie Neustadt (Niskayuna, NY)
After Kissing in Vietnamese by Ocean Vuong
Grandma Freda kisses as if she could
protect me with her crimson tattoo.
She seals my ears with endearments, Lesincoo.
She kisses my smooth hands, my fingers meant
to turn pages, not sew in sweat shops.
She kisses as if each kiss were a kush fun lebn.
As if her kisses meant I’d be passed over
by plagues. No pogroms, no gas chambers,
no yellow stars—if only she kisses me enough.
She calls me shana madela. Her kisses drops
of honey, but they put meat on my bones. You’re too
skinny. She kisses as if her kisses could inoculate
me from sticks and stones, No Jews Allowed.
Her sugar cookies, apple cake, dill-scented
chicken soup are kisses too. When Grandma
Freda kisses, she inhales my little girl scent,
makes me feel like sunlight. She sits in her pew
on Shabbas waiting for me. Plants a buss on my cheek.
I glint with her imprint. Grandma Freda kisses
with her full bosom, her skinny legs pulsing
rivers of blue. Her kisses a map to follow
when my body fades. Now, I paint my lips
crimson, make red tattoos with my wrinkled
lips on the grandchildren bequeathed to me.
Poet, writer and visual artist Leslie Neustadt is a retired New York Assistant Attorney General and board member of The International Women’s Writing Guild. The author of Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey, Leslie’s work is illuminated by her Jewish upbringing and expresses her experiences as a woman, daughter, wife, mother and cancer patient. You’re invited to visit her online at www.LeslieNeustadt.com.