3 poems by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

EVENING IN PARIS
(Titles of Edith Piaf songs in italics)

Every morning you unscrewed the tear-shaped

silver top of the cobalt bottle, plus bleu que tes yeux—

bluer than your eyes, and dabbed your neck, clavicle,

and wrists with Evening in Paris—

your scent tattoo—top notes of violet and bergamot,

heart notes of jasmine and roses

that warbled through our rooms

like Edith Piaf’s voice on the hi-fi.

You, born in Syracuse, dreamt

of being sous le ciel de Paris, smoked

Gauloises when you could find them

and wore your brown hair up in a French twist.

You gave me my French name—Rochelle.

For your birthdays, I’d save my pennies,

nickels, and dimes, and go to Woolworth

to buy you a tiny bottle of Evening in Paris

that didn’t come in a blue-satin-lined box

like the two-ounce bottle Father bought for you, 

but still you held mine to your heart.

Evening in Paris was written in blue script

on the silver label like the names,

settings, and dates you fountain-penned,

your mots d’amour, in Waterman’s blue 

ink on the scalloped edges of sepia photos

that you mucilaged into the black pages of albums.

Your scent wafts up to me as you lean toward me

to kiss my forehead in late evening

when the drawn shades shut out the streetlights,

your face shining, starlit, with Pond’s Cold Cream.

Tu est partout—you 

                          are everywhere. 

ISAAC
(2016) 

Your foot, smaller than my index finger, 

nose no wider than my thumb knuckle, fuzzy head, 

heady as honeysuckle. The soft spot on your crown 

rises and falls with your whispery breath. What bit 

of me, bit of my son, of my husband, is in you, Bitsy Boy? 

Our past, our future is swaddled with you. 

Your eyelids flutter. Your bottom lip curls down. 

With your fist at your cheek, you begin to root. 

My breasts tingle as if 

I’m nursing again. 

Soon, you will outgrow my arms.

You startle. Fingers spring straight out.

I hand you to your mother. Your profile 

sinks into the pillow of her breast. You, Isaac, 

are the light the shades let in.

PSALM

I trace my finger 

over your lashes

that quiver like 

grass blades

in rain, 

your breath 

moist 

on my wrist.  

your bristly cheeks,  

the cords 

of your long neck,

your chest’s 

delicate forest. 

Now my palms rest 

on yours. May 

our lifelines

always touch.

About the contributor

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s essays have appeared in the New York Times (Lives), Newsweek, and many anthologies. Her short stories are in MacGuffin, Entropy, Foliate Oak, and more. Her poetry was nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension. @rjshapiro 

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