To My Parents
I see you Evelyn in your good black skirt,
the one you wore winter and summer.
You are sitting on a metal folding chair
in a union hall, wearing your serious face.
Thugs line the room. Diamonds flash from their fingers.
They wait silently to take you for a ride.
But your brother saves you, crisscrossing Chicago by streetcar.
While across town, Mike Shnaper is changing his name
to Kingsley to sound more Anglo.
He wears a baseball cap to hold down his curls.
He is talking or playing pinochle with workers on Halsted Street.
You have not yet gone to that dance.
You will get married on your lunch hour at city hall,
bringing your dentist as a witness.
You will not be speaking to each other.
Later, you will flee from your apartment, leaving the rent unpaid.
You will change your names often.
In due time, I will be born.
So let’s consider your options:
Mother, your skin is too delicate.
Become a dancer or a pharmacist.
Do not become a barking dog or a Little Match Girl.
Father, do not get into that plane. Send someone else to kill Hitler.
Instead, teach me to eat lox and bagels for breakfast.
Do not sentence me to oatmeal.
Take me to nursery school.
Send me to college.
Bring me comfort.
But even I know it’s useless.
I watch my father swing himself inside the plane, radio-man, cracking jokes.
I watch helpless as the plane crosses the sky,
spirals down, explodes in flames.
Chris Christie was born in Chicago, IL but her family moved around the country. They settled in Milwaukee where she has mostly lived since. She has worked as a waitress, a community organizer, a health care professional, a school administrator, a university lecturer. These days she is retired from teaching and spends her time working in the community on local political issues and writing. She has been published in poetry reviews such as The Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Calendar, The Milwaukee Journal, community newspapers, has had a play produced at the University of North Carolina, and has published a book about her family’s experiences during the so-called McCarthy era, This American Family: Growing up as a Red Diaper Baby, A Memoir. She is currently co-authoring a book of poetry about grieving and loss with Mary Devitt.