Letters from Dahlia

She was different than the girls who came before her.
All dressed in low pastels,
a few were creative, even pretty.
The German girl had an Italian name.
She wasn't very tall, maybe a head above the rest.
And slim, she kept her shape dancing.
This was the best thing about her.
Now Friday nights are a bore,
watching everyone dance the same moves,
the drunker ones touching themselves.


I am in my purple slip dress,
he is there and so is she.
The German girl sitting next to a boy,
they are laughing and talking to someone on the phone.
Gilad calls, "Tova has arrived!"
I am on the staircase and hear him say this,
so I fluff up my hair a bit.
I'm thinking how my voice is darker than the rest.


This is how forgiveness begins.
Nothing elaborate,
maybe a bottle of olive oil from the yard of a neighbor
you didn't think was your neighbor.
When I was in the Air Force I wanted out.
Was willing to call myself crazy,
put tobacco in my eye till it puffed up stinging.
The swelling went down as I left the nurses yellow barracks,
waving my white white exit paper
stumbling into sun.


We wait in the Air Force hospital
to know.

Forgiveness begins with me pregnant.

I came here from far away
with green in my eyes,
blue and white in my heart.

I travel each city picking up sand and rocks as I go.
Weighing myself in her.

TOVA GARDNER has poems in Poetica Magazine, Dislocate Literary Journal, SNReview and The New Vilna Review. She has poems forthcoming in Word Riot and Blue Fifth Review. She has twice received Artist Grants from The Vermont Studio Center. She is the poetry editor of The Arava Review and Binge Magazine.