Today 11 Jews Were Shot to Death At a Synagogue in Pittsburgh

by Hannah Oberman-Breindel

And all the trees are bleeding. Marigold tops
drip crimson at the bottom. Fall is replete
with endings. Leaving the church-sponsored
billboards and the state-sponsored
seatbelt reminders of the highway, we drive
into town. We are visiting for a wedding.
On the business loop: big box stores, bars
with windows boarded-up, parking lots
and drive-thrus. Spires above the tree line.
Saturday’s peace, interrupted
by lawn signs, all promises, strewn
across grass. By the news. By the clashing
helmets of football teams, here to play
their weekend sport. In celebration, downtown
is decked in black and gold, students,
their cheeks flushed, float in and out of bars.
The wooden tables long-smoothed
by those who came before.
Today, my neck hurts from craning
upwards. I see eleven swallows in a vee.
An amateur auger, I’m looking for signs again.
In another time, in another country,
my grandmother boarded a train to safety,
but at the border, the train was sent back.
She hid for weeks in a locked compartment,
and spent years after running for safety.
This is, as ever, the kingdom of our lifetime.
About the wedding, we cheer with the breaking
of the glass, we will say how happy
they looked, how their vows reminded us
of a different shared history, how our bodies
hurt from dancing, how we performed joy
until it was nearly real again.

Hannah Oberman-Breindel’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Washington Square Review; The Literary Review; Forklift, Ohio; Thrush; Court Green; the anthology Bodies Built for Game, and elsewhere. She’s been granted fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and currently teaches high school English in New York City.