Diane G. Scholl

A word that I mispronounced “succor,” thinking
of leaves as they blanket the sidewalk in red,
orange-gold, hushing the fall afternoons on my way
home from school. Succor, the cup of hot chocolate
my grandmother makes, the sound of my mother’s voice.
Later, it will be the taste of words, a poem unpeeling
from its own sharp pit. In Esther’s backyard,
nearly hidden by shrubs, it’s a house leaning into
the wind, a thatched roof open to sky. “A sukkah,”
she tells me, her mother explaining you go there to pray.
My heart wraps around “succor.”

The word grows ripe after fifty years. In the art
museum, the stained glass temple window
with its pendant grapes and shock of wheat—
the Feast of Sukkoth! That shimmering air, smelling
of rotten apples and last summer’s heat, province
of lost toys and cicadas. I could not, would not go back
where her grandmother rocks in the bedroom, softly intoning
the names of the dead whose images, black and white,
stare from the wall. No one is home at the old addresses
where doors used to open. Their empty shoes clutter
the street, a long silent cry. They know: we lose everything,
everyone we love. That’s why, before winter brings
its bag of bones, they built a house in the garden,
took their quiet meal, offering one tender gift still warm
from their hands: that rare food, succor.



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