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  • Liora Hyman

Ma Nishtana

Silhouetted against the wall is my mother.

My mother taught me all the things that matter in this world,

pastries in the shapes of triangles and potato pancakes pronounced like a

page out of a yiddish fairy tale,

singing around a table cloaked in white linen,

like a nostalgic quilt my grandma used to make.

I sat with the four questions I did not know how to recite

in my lap, tear streaked and crinkled

by my 10 eight year old fingers.

My mother taught me everything that mattered in this world,

but she left out the part that required me to cry in frustration at

the mouthfuls of a not-so-dying language.

I am the one who does not know how to answer.

I am not selfish, I do not think only of myself

nor do I wisely know all there is to know.

I wish I had wanted to know, or else passing on the tradition

like passing miriam’s cup, glistening with water, might have spilt

into my passions. Yet ma nishtana fumbles from my lips,

roping around my neck and begging the question for itself:


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