“Bully” by Deborah L. Staunton

She holds the deck of cards between the swollen knuckles of her knobby, arthritic hands, running her fingers across the smooth sheen of their surface.

“Debalah,” she beckons, “come play Bully with me.” The Hungarian form of Gin Rummy is her favorite, a game she rarely loses.

Young adulthood has stolen the enthusiasm from my child-self and replaced it with the boredom of obligatory compliance tinged with guilt. I glance at the hands on the glassy surface of the clock and then at the rivers of wrinkles running over the hills of her cheeks that sit just under the cloudy orbs studying the cards in her hand. Cataracts have dulled the deep brown of her youth but their impish spark persists.

“Bully!” she shouts, followed by the throaty laughter of yet another win.

At dusk, I gently lower her spindly frame onto the bed in the room next to the kitchen. The hulking dialysis machine squats in the corner, commode perched by the bed.

Night has come.

 

 

Deborah L. Staunton has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Six Hens, The Remembered Arts Journal, Literary Mama, Sheepshead Review, The MacGuffin, and was featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room exhibit in New York City. Her collection of poetry and prose, Untethered, is currently under consideration for publication.

“Flame” by Deborah L. Staunton

Hungary, 1934

Antique brass, darkened with age, Star of David at its center, tucked between plain cotton blouses and threadbare socks in the small brown satchel my grandmother clutches. The S.S. Berengaria carries this child, the first to leave her family, the third of seven sisters and one brother, away from her village, her country, her world. The menorah’s presence steadies her, candle after candle, flame after flame. Eight candles. Eight siblings.

New York City, 1939

The shamash candle stands guard behind and above the others, their light warming the small apartment. Brother and sister join her. Now they are three. Three flames on one side, five on the other. Hitler’s gas extinguishes mother, father, sister, nephews. Seven lives, seven, flames, seven deaths. The menorah burns hot and bright. Eight nights, four survivors, four miracles.

Long Island, 2018

The menorah stands on my kitchen table, thick with dried wax, each holder smaller than the tip of a finger, its orange glow on the snow-dusted windowpane, names and faces echoed in its flame.

 

 

 

Deborah L. Staunton has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Six Hens, The Remembered Arts Journal, Literary Mama, Sheepshead Review, The MacGuffin, and was featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room exhibit in New York City. Her collection of poetry and prose, Untethered, is currently under consideration for publication.