Poem: A Shayna Maidel

            October/November 2012    
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A Shayna Maidel

By Art Heifetz

Rivka stumbled into old age

With an air of bewilderment

As if she had strayed from the Concourse

Into a neighborhood where

All the signs were in foreign script.

Even her own body was unfamiliar,

Her once lovely olive skin

Tatooed with an archipelago

Of ugly brown islands,

Her silky silver hair,

Victim of a kabbalistic spell,

Now falling out in small clumps,

Her razor-sharp memory transformed

Into a jumble of disconnected wires

So that she called her daughter

By her dead cat's name.

Only her hazel-specked eyes

Retained their original luster.

Somewhere beneath the wreckage

Was the flaming beauty

She had been in Sheepshead Bay.

A shayna maidel,

Her father had called her,

As she strolled coquettishly

On the beach,

Pursued by suitors

Too numerous to count.

How to unearth her?

Perhaps all she needed

Was a little freshening.

Seated at her vanity,

She steadied her hands

To apply lipstick and mascara.

She rummaged through

A musty cardboard box

Retrieved from the back of the closet

And found a push-up bra

Her daughter had discarded

And an ancient summer frock

With yellow butterflies.

For the first time in countless years,

She put her cleavage on display.

A cerulean scarf of Chinese silk,

Gifted by her late husband,

Concealed the bald spots on her head.

She took the elevator to the lobby,

Ready to confront the world.

"Big date tonight, Mrs. G?"

Asked Juan, the Puerto Rican doorman.

Then, whistling through his teeth,

He added, "Que mujer hermosa."

"In Yiddish," Rivka told him,

"We say shayna maidel."

So that's what he began to call her,

Day in and day out

Each time he held the door.

"Shayna," he'd say,

"You look like a cool million."

In gratitude, she gave him

Her huband's Armani suits,

His Cole-Hahn loafers,

His Rolex, diamond tie stud,

And to complete the dowry,

A check for eight thousand smackers

Tucked into a Christmas card

And placed beneath the tree.

"A Juan, mi gran amor," it read

"From your shayna maidel."

When her daughter audited the account,

She had Rivka declared


And committed to a "home."

The shayna maidel departed peacefully

Without a hint of protest,

Serene in the knowledge

That the check had already cleared.


from the October/November 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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