two poems by Lana Rakhman

After One Drink, My Mother Turns To Voodoo

Hastily you spread

your worries around the rug,

a deck of tarot cards

that swallow your finger-

prints the moment your fingers lift;


Judgment in orbit around your crossed legs,

until all is quiet –

The Queen stood up.

 But there is no Queen here,

and so you’ve mixed this deck with the regular cards –

[not an accident, numbers

reveal more than pictures].


Your mumbles carry far,


as if The Hanged Man mounted a horse

rode into the desert

dug a hole

dropped your voice inside



until each grain of sand was firmly

soused, ready to harness

a flock of nightingales.


I will not tell you what this means, no,

you say while glancing up,

or maybe you said

It is bad luck to read a daughter’s fortune

or it could have been

You are not ready to listen


but either way I pressed your back –

            an ironing board full of burn marks –


you did not fold.


Tell Your Mother What You Want To Be When You Grow Up



I want to burn bridges, to teach people to burn bridges. But it doesn’t quite come out the way I wanted because her first question is How do you know how to burn bridges? Not sure how to answer, I stutter. She interrupts by waving her whorled hand, slowly shaking her head How are you going to make money doing something you don’t know? A pause: the air is too thick for her porous lungs, or too thin to settle deeply into her blood. In this country, if you don’t make money, you are no one. I cannot argue, she is cup-half-empty right. Her laugh infested with phlegm, a meeting between cough and little girl’s giggle; not malicious, not nice. Your teachers know nothing, if they told you to be a bridge burner. My sigh lost in translation, in cataract, in an IV drip that she tugs on like a leash, connected to the upper side of her nearly dissolved veins. She turns to my father, overlooked and muted, shouts We’re homeless! What home do you have here? We left our home and came here to be buried. She has never seen me burn a bridge. I ask her if she wants to see it, tell her that I will burn one for her. She shakes, adjusts her cheap knee-blanket, looks at the black and white photo of her mother on the wall behind my head. You were named after her, she gestures, and No

 Moshe Quinn