Tradition & Innovation
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At 33, While Buying Bathing Suits

By Adrienne Ross

at 33, while buying bathing suits,
I see my mother's thighs in the mirror

behind my reflection
are Jewish women
their mountain bodies cascading
over flower print bathing suits
with ruffled skirts.

they stand at the ocean's edge,
never venturing in past their ankles
splashing bitter water on strong arms
and large bosoms.

women playing scrabble
under green tassled beach umbrellas
as they stroke the arms of their girlfriends
of 40 years

laughing like thunder
as they tell dirty jokes
boast of their children
take inventory
who's sick
who's dead,
never once
mentioning husbands
or a diet.

women squinting in the bright sun
at their thin American daughters
who take gentile boyfriends to secular seders
who wonder about the meaning of life
and who may never have children

daughters hungering
beneath the flesh
for cheese blintzes in sour cream
potato knishes
the sweet foods
of poverty
and flight