by Herbert J. Levine (Sarasota, FL)
My grandmother loved to watch Queen for a Day,
listening to each woman tell her sad story,
until they placed the crown on the winner’s head.
The American competitors needed washing machines.
My grandmother needed only her husband,
dead for more than twenty years.
How many separations she’d endured
in the years when, with trumpet calls, he’d rallied the Czar’s troops
against Japanese and Germans,
the years he’d peddled door to door in New England towns,
while she ran a market-day saloon
for the drunken farmers
and when he sent the money to buy tickets
having to separate from her mother,
who would one day be killed by Hitler’s villains,
also from her youngest brother and his wife,
who left their baby girl with a Gentile family,
dying to save their comrades.
If she could once have spoken of these things,
she might have broken down at last and wept
not as queen for a day, but as mother of all our catastrophes.
“Queen for a Day” is from Herbert Levine’s second book of bi-lingual poems, An Added Soul: Poems for a New Old Religion (2020). Many of the poems in his first book of poems, Words for Blessing the World (2017) are being used liturgically in a variety of congregations. He divides his time between Sarasota, FL and central Maine, where he and Ellen Frankel have three granddaughters.