ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Poems From A Dark Season: A Mother's Alzheimer's Journey," by Robert Hirschfield

Which Way Is Jerusalem?


Which way is Jerusalem?

She puts down her fork

and her baked potato.

The blood in her eye

is from a dishonored fig tree.

All afternoon, she’s been battling

the legions of Titus

on the Forest Hills tressle.

She has a thousand Roman heads

in her shopping bag,

all of them wailing

in her derailed Yiddish

that starts up in her

as she pins to herself

a medal of sand and vinegar.



Venice In Queens


Her brother sings her an aria

from the Book of Psalms.

They could be on a gondola

in Venice,

but they are not.

They are in a moat.

His skullcap is a kettle of jelly

she touches, just barely,

with her pinky.

He becomes a boat for her,

a dark canal,

a gondolier.

She is afraid

to ask his name.

If it’s not him,

and it may not be,

he will souse her with silence,

and the desert

that kneels in her mouth

will flex a tawny muscle,

give her a little push.



Marriage: Alzheimer’s Days


He once plastered walls,

but now his nose

is bolted to her shoulder.

She thinks she sees her father

in the sycamore tree

and offers herself to be eaten,

a brazen Jewish apple from Plonsk.


The wad of twenties

sloshing in her slipper

makes her feel sexy.

She winks at the man

with the nose on her shoulder.

He doesn’t want her.

He makes a grab for her slipper.

They roll around on the rug

like in the old days.


Robert Hirschfield is currently at work on stitching together a large enough cycle of Alzheimer's poems to comprise a chapbook. His poems have been published internationally, in Salamander and Pamplemousse, as well as Offcourse, in the US, Descant in Canada and European Judaism in the UK.  His stories on poets have appeared in The Writer, and his reviews of books of poetry, in The Jerusalem Report.

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