May 2001

Rochelle Ratner


Rochelle Ratner lives in New York City where she is Executive Editor of American Book Review and reviews regularly for Library Journal, and other magazines. Her books include two novels: Bobby's Girl (Coffee House Press, 1986) and The Lion's Share (Coffee House Press, 1991) and thirteen poetry books including Practicing to Be A Woman: New and Selected Poems (Scarecrow Press, 1982), Someday Songs (BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1992), and Zodiac Arrest (Ridgeway Press, 1995). An anthology she edited, Bearing Life: Women's Writings on Childlessness, published in 2000 by The Feminist Press, won the Susan Koppelman Award given by Women's Caucus of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association.

The Nights of Tel Aviv    Click to hear in real audio

In Memoriam: Florence Klinger


On the first night in Tel Aviv
she dined at a table
with the Old Ones

after dinner she started
on a walk with us
then went upstairs
for her jacket

the others went on ahead
while I stood there waiting
with her husband

but even bundled up
the wind was too much for her.

I'd arrived that afternoon
to find her in the room
next door to me

she came out in the hall
to welcome us
as if her being there early
were the most natural thing

she'd learned, she told us,
not to let the hucksters
stop you for even a moment
or you won't get away.


On the second night in Tel Aviv
we took cabs to Jaffa
but she didn't go there

Jaffa's steps, like Jerusalem's hills,
would be a strain

in Jerusalem, at dinner,
she told us how the rabbi
tends to overplan things

lamenting that we weren't seeing
all the promised places.

She's here now,
that's all that matters

and remember the cousins
who live on a kibbutz here?
she spoke with such joy
of going to visit them

it worked out even better,
they came here to Tel Aviv,
stayed in the very room
I sleep in now.


I'm not sleeping.
On this last night in Tel Aviv
we all ate together
at a Yemen restaurant

in the morning we'd head home,
she'd take off for Paris
to spend a week with the brother
her husband hasn't seen
in fifteen years

we eat to say hello, goodbye
then I go back to the room
and gag it all up,
always scared of leaving

even my parents
in a room that joins mine
sleep and won't hear

this trip's been hard on everyone
but ten days later, for her,
there will be no memory.

At night in Tel Aviv
the hucksters still shout on streets
selling all of us blouses we don't want
over and over.



Rochelle Ratner: Poetry
Copyright 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 16The Cortland Review