My cousins live fifteen
Minutes away. By foot.
As a child I was told
we had the same face,
but it looked so much better on them.
If you behave,
Your bunk wins a visit to Cousins’ Cafe,
Their ice cream, the antidote
to hidden homesick tears.
10:17 p.m., on the eastern edge of
My parents ask the driver’s name, waiting
On the sidewalk.
“Ahmed,” he lets the sounds
Float out the car window:
Ah—one of the few
Hebrew speakers never perfect
Although some keep guiltily trying.
Med—the first sound of the
Arabic word for city
And the Hebrew word for country,
Like together his name proclaims
How Jerusalem ought to be pronounced,
Semi-gutturally: his city, his country.
When I ask my parents why
They refused his ride
I know the answer is some variation of
“He’s a cousin,” “Nischt fun unzera,”
Or “Yael, it’s just too late.”
Tuesday, let’s say it was a Tuesday
My cousin died on a Tuesday
But I didn’t hear until after
Philip Larkin’s Aubade—
Mom stumbled across my room,
plopped on the nail-polished carpet
And asked me to shut my computer.
Hapsburgs, Tudors, Abrahams.
So much sex. Cousins.
won’t eat chicken, bread, sauces, blue substances, carrots, corn on the cob, lentils, egg whites, or sun butter. Eager to escape
tired information, we explode our folding chairs with laughter.
He laughs, too,
Then that pause,
“The next one is serious.”
The three of us, at attention.
And our camp director reads the parents’ plea:
Eva’s cousin took her own life last April. We don’t know if it will come up, but please try to be mindful.
My peers ask in a counselor mode of collected, whether
there is more information.
My cousins live thirteen
Hours away. By plane and taxi.
A different nationality, so they claim.
For nine months, I dropped in whenever.
They gave me extra hugs
On homesick holidays, and on ostentatiously carnivorous Fridays, almost
accepted my propensity for veganism.
Some people count cousins,
1st cousin, 2nd cousin, 5th cousin.
I have forty-one first cousins.
Jonah was my first cousin who died.
Some Jews assign words, afraid to use numbers.
Like instead of one to ten,
Liturgical little nicknames:
Save1 Your2 People,3
Bless4 Your5 Land,6
Shepherd7 And8 Carry9 Forever.10
They swim from lips
to imaginary nametags,
As we hope to save our kin
Pressed with how to express affection,
We settle with
“I love you
like a brother,”
yet never say “like a cousin,”
is that not the next best relation?
My cousins live eighty
Minutes away. By car.
From ages 7-11, I loved to
sleep there. They’re
too conservative to own movies,
So we’d make milkshakes
And write plays.