Issue > Poetry
Chana Bloch

Chana Bloch

Chana Bloch is the author of four books of poems: The Secrets of the Tribe, The Past Keeps Changing, Mrs. Dumpty, and Blood Honey, and co-translator of the Song of Songs and The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai. The recipient of the 2012 Meringoff Poetry Awrd, she collaborated with Chana Kronfeld on translations of Amichai's Open Closed Open, and Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch.

July in the Bronx, 1971

Two boys are setting off firecrackers
on the spitting-hot city sidewalk.
I shout out the window: "Stop! Stop it!"
Their answer is another burst.          
It's the Fourth, that's why.  
I'm trying to reason with them:
"For God's sake,           
my father's dying."                     
A word they haven't learned yet.     
Gray pajamas, sweaty, his face a soft white                         
flag of surrender.                           
"I wanted to live a little," he says
in a raspy voice. Past tense.       
My father says, "If my old man ever                
caught me smoking when I was a boy,                           
he would beat me to ribbons."                                
His face retrieves the smoking, not the beating.    

Outside on the sidewalk nothing is forbidden.             
A puff of cloud rises and rides the air,
acrid, alluring,                          
sweet whiff of liberty.

Happiness Research

                              for Dave

Rain over Berkeley! The birds are all out
delivering the news.                                    
The evening, it appears, is happy tonight.
"Is there more to happiness than feeling happy?"
the moral philosophers inquire.

Research has shown                           
if you spot a dime on the sidewalk
you're more likely to tell the professor your life  
is fine, thank you. The effect                    
generally lasts about twenty minutes.      
Scientists are closing in on                                  
the crowded quarter of the brain                          
where happiness lives. They like to think                     
it's hunkered down
in the left prefrontal cortex.     

"Even in the slums of Calcutta
people on the street describe themselves
as reasonably happy." Why not be
reasonable? why not Berkeley? why not
right now, sweetheart, while the rain                     
is stroking the roof?               

The dress I unbuttoned is happy
to be draped on the chair.                         
The split-leaf philodendron is more than glad               
to be watered and fed, just look  
at those leaves
doing their new green thing.


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