A Day in the Life

June 23, 2020

By Naftali Shavelson

I remember it too clearly,
that morning at the supermarket,
It was raining and
I was holding my mother’s hand.

We were buying bread, I think, and meat for dinner,
and I was supposed to remember
the fish and the oranges.

They were from Israel, she told me,
and fresh, even in today’s weather.
The rain crashed down outside,
but we were inside, and dry.
A song played on the radio,
beautiful and sad,
aching in a language I couldn’t understand.

I’ve tried for years to find that song,

and just as the bridge rose up
to welcome the chorus,
all of us dancing,
browsing the aisles,
checking our shopping lists,
blasts shattered the ascent
and the notes fell on us like cold rain.
I had never seen a gun before, not even in the movies.
It was smaller than I expected, and looked cold,
and my mother, holding an orange in her free hand,
smelling it to gauge its sweetness,
turned to see what had interrupted her melody.

Yesterday at school, a kid I barely knew
called me a kike and spat in my face.

His friends were with him, one of them
I recognized from history class.

I went to the bathroom to wash up and I cried,
I thought no one was there but I looked up
and saw David and I think he understood.

I tried to get here while it was still light out,
but I missed my bus and here I am.
It’s cold tonight, I know you wouldn’t have liked that.
Don’t worry, I’m wearing a coat.
For what it’s worth, the night is clear and I can see the stars.

I think about that day in the Paris hypercacher too often,
because it was simply yesterday, always yesterday.
If I go to a store or eat an orange or,
see a mother and child holding hands,
I’m reminded of what you said.
The smell of blood was in the air by then.
You had been hit, twice, and it looked bad.
You weren’t the only one.
You said
Show him
Did he want me to bleed like this?

I am a Jew.
I have eyes like suns.
I bled that day,
and I have never stopped bleeding.

Naftali Shavelson is sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York. His poem, “A Day in the Life”, was selected as a winner of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement’s Emma Lazarus Art Award.