Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 19 • Fall 2006 • Poetry

Camp Song

Hansa Bergwall

An Israeli woman kneaded her military hands
and softened me like the wet clay in my studio.

The 10-year-olds we counseled slipped
and scored wheels for the choo-choo

train menorahs. Jew camp, the job felt plush.
Play with kids in the studio all day,

fire their dove pitchers by night and lead projects
like raku masks that make Jewish moms pine.

My ass pocket creased a letter
from Vlad, my Romanian man, some joked the impaler,

accurately. He could spin
off his legs into a perfect split

He could pick me up with one hand
or throw kicks that won him the State

Tae-Kwon-Doe Championship.
All the same to me as I showed the kids

how to coil pots with snakes of clay.
The sensual qualities of mail,

like the script curl of a "g" or a "q",
intrigued so I refused phones all summer

for clay, kosher, and singing
embarrassing songs about Abraham.

Beyond the studio kids canoed
the lake in bright blue life vests.

When they were done they grasped
for Oreos and milk,

for dairy wasn't at dinnertime
when I always got to hang behind

to check on the kilns. I would slide
the metal sheath off the side of a peephole

and check the orange glow of several
thousand degrees firing stacked shelves

of stoneware. Some splatter-glazed spice
pots filled the kiln.

Enter the Iranian Dane
councilor who wore his Yarmulke

as heavily as his love of Kafka,
and spoke in a drawl with sarcasm

melting into every cranny like butter
on English muffins. Opening a kiln,

you never really know what will have cracked.
Often you have to chip

droplets of glass from those shelves.
Glazes cover as smoothly

as the Iranian Dane's skin. Who, I discovered,
had not a single hair below scalp,

didn't wear underwear. Every lanky limb
revealed its musculature. I threw my letter

holding jeans in the corner of some room,
and all the time he muttered about alienation

and metamorphosis, until he licked
too and then the room glowed a kiln

orange, but also sweet like the applesauce
on latke night at Jew camp.

Five hundred Jewish kids stood up
and sang, "pharaoh, pharaoh, let my people go",

As they put their hands above their heads
and tried to move their heads like Egyptians.

And wouldn't you know it, I was the only singer
that could move my neck instead of my arms.

The kids asked me to do the Pharaoh
all summer like a show of double joints

or webbed toes.

Hansa Bergwall received his master's in arts journalism from Syracuse University in June 2006. He grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. This is his first poetry publication.

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