Here Lives a Happy Family

With colorful strokes of Crayola
Depicting six stick figures holding hands
Across a white sheet of paper,
The family below her has hung
On their door this sign:
“Here Lives a Happy Family”

Each evening Clara climbs the stairs
On her return from teaching school
(teaching students the age of one of
Those stick figures, she figures)
Up up up the stairs, tired from the day
Panting with the weight of
Books and papers and the groceries
She’s picked up on her way
(one onion, two apples, a bag of pasta,
a quart of milk). Up up up
Passing, each evening, their sign:
“Here Lives a Happy Family.”

Clara’s door is just a door. No signs.
Her mother has told her “Women who live alone
Should not announce it to the world!
You have to be careful.” Clara does not need
A sign, anyway – no one comes to visit,
And she herself knows well which door is hers:
The apartment one flight up from
“Here Lives a Happy Family.”

Clara hears the rhythms of their life
Through the floorboards. The mother
Wakes first, heats the whistling teapot.
She rouses her children one by one, each time
A little louder: “henry Henry HENRY
You must get up Get Up GET UP”
(Clara wakes each day with Henry.)
Then the father leaves. He shuts the door
Behind him: “Bye kids!” –BANG.
It is not hard for him to go; he knows
He will return twelve hours later, he
Will find them just the same,
Clamoring over the table behind
The happy-holding crayoned hands:
“Here Lives a Happy Family.”

Clara laces up her boots,
Swings a bag over her shoulder
Bites into an apple (breakfast), locks her door,
And sets off down the stairs at half past six.
She tries to dart past, tries to look away, but still–
She always glances, always turns around
As if she has forgotten something, dropped
Something behind her – or ahead:
Here Lives a Happy Family.

One thought on “Here Lives a Happy Family

  1. Anonymous says:

    A beautiful post.Also: Thanks for your help in finding the book “Alma Dee”. Based on your tip, I went to Hartman Institute and asked if they had a copy for sale. The secretary told me, “No, but Ari Elon is in the cafeteria – go ask him.” Mr Elon seemed floored by my zeal in trying to get his book, so he sold me his last copy for NIS 40. When I didn’t have change, he told me to just take the book and pay him when I can. Thanks,Moshe


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