Necklace by Helena Lipstadt


My name hangs
like a pendant
in the necklace of generations.
Link after link of h & n
Helena is Hannah is Hebrew for Grace
threaded through Slavic cities
washed new in the mikveh
to shine, a red squall between
my mother’s legs.

A name is heavy to carry
down the wide hopeful avenue
and light, after so many repetitions
so many prayers.

It dodges
the fluid borders
of seven countries
collects the patina
of a Polish song.
“The Lovely Helena”
whistled on the corner
hands in pockets
in dangerous times
a hiding place
of a name.

Burn a hole in the map of Warsaw
look through the ash circle
you can’t see
the flamed soul
of Hannah
my grandmother
her grandmother’s name
singing mine to me.

Every day I cast off her hungry voice
bear my light a blaze
in the eye.
A name is heavy to carry
and light, after so many repetitions

Helena Lipstadt was born in Berlin. She lives in Los Angeles and Blue Hill, Maine. Her poems have been featured in Rattling Wall, Lilith, Bridges, Jewish Currents, Sinister Wisdom, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Medium, Common Lives, Lesbian Lives, The Reconstructionist, and In the Family. Her writing has also appeared in the following anthologies: The Challenge of Shalom, From Memory to Transformation, Every Woman I’ve Ever Loved: Lesbian Writers on Their Mothers, and His Hands, His Tools, His Sex, His Dress: Lesbian Writers on Their Fathers. Helena is the author of two chapbooks, Leave Me Signs and If My Heart Were A Desert. Her prose-poem “Do Widzenia” won silver in the Travelers Tales’ Solas Awards. Helena has also been a writer-in-residence at the WUJS Institute’s Arad Arts Program in Arad, Israel, and at The Borderland Foundation in Sejny, Poland.