The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Open the Fist by Elya Braden

This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Open the Fist by Elya Braden, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

Electric Hanukkiah in the Window

            content warning for incest

Mommy, I asked, why do we put it in the window?

To show our neighbors that we are not
drinking the blood of Christian children.
I remember her answering.
Dark bird, she swooped around the kitchen
            in snug pedal-pushers,
her knuckled fingers busy—
            sprinkling cinnamon over a kugel,
            basting a pot roast,
only her bouffant hair shellacked into stillness.

But that can’t be right.
I’ve twisted this recollection somehow.
It’s Passover that recalls the blood,
            not of Christian children, but of lambs.

I remember those eight days of gifts,
            an annual competition
with our Christian friends to see who got
more loot at the end of the season.
But even daily gifts couldn’t staunch my hunger
            for evergreen, incense, an angel.

Day one: a little Kiddle doll.
Day two: another.
Day eight: the big reveal—
            a Kiddle doll game board.
A joint present for me and my little sister.
With only 11 months between our births,
            it could only end in tears.

Who knows where it is now?
On the trash heap of time,
along with the electric Hanukkiah,
            our tired dreidels,
and the Alice in Wonderland sheets
stained in my memory
with midnight and father and blood.
            Or maybe, I’ve twisted that, too.

Elya Braden is the author of Open The Fist, a chapbook released in 2020, and The Sight of Invisible Longing, a chapbook to be published in 2023, both by Finishing Line Press. She is a writer and mixed-media artist living in Ventura County, CA, and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her work has been published in Calyx, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Coachella Review and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and have received several Best of the Net nominations.


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