The Bearer

Gabriella T. Rieger

When I was old enough
I was entrusted with the task of bringing the soup.
The oriental rug spread out before me
a vast and barren field, ending in a window
overlooking rooftops supporting water towers.
I the lone bearer all the way to the dining room.
Each step awkwardly determined
Arms rigid.
The yellow soup edged itself over the inner rim of the bowl
  And back again.
Heat rose in a steam
of chicken, carrots, dill, parsnip, and kneidlach.
A soup that could make one forget
tights loose and slipping all the way to shul
the lack of bedroom furniture and grandfathers

The soup was eaten in a quiet reprieve
unlike the silence before challah
The silver soup spoon awkward and large for my mouth
was hidden in the suitcase
as they drove from Luxembourg to Antwerp
past the border at dawn, while Nazi soldiers waited for orders.
I remember we had left the house
when my mother said wait, some food or something to wet our lips
but it was too late to leave the car
my grandmother brought the silverware from Antwerp
I remember that. You know we were lucky to have a car.

 

Many years later I stared at the wooden floor
absolutely bare of lint or thread or spot.
I learned there was another carpet
underneath the one I tread on
carrying plates of gefilte fish.
Carrots and onions crowned each slice
surrounded by a small pool of cold broth.

I’d reach over others at the table
without notice, lean around shoulders and elbows.
Past the slow build of arguments, queries
about the article in today’s Times
straight to the center of the plate.
A circle inside a circle.
The white tablecloth gleamed under the brass chandelier.
The meal would conclude with a colorful compote
thick and purple or red with rhubarb.

As my grandmother ladled the steamy liquid
my mother added the vegetables
each delicate and flowing in tandem
Each bowl individually assigned as our seats at the table
And careful, it’s hot, don’t burn yourself, watch the carpet
I watch the yellow liquid sway - aren’t there more years for me to practice
balance, poise, and memory.
and how does the chicken seep into the water.

Gabriella T. Rieger lives in Jerusalem and is a student in Bar-Ilan University's Creative Writing Program. A New York native, she has published in the Bowery Women Anthology, Transmission, Voices Israel, and the art catalogue of Anat Shalev.


Back to Contents