Marcia Falk








Hidden Image


Here are the instructions
for the Magic Eye 3-D Optical Illusion Card:
Hold this postcard
right up to your nose
and very very slowly
pull it away from your face.
Look through the card without focusing.
Try not to blink, and a hidden image
will magically appear!

My five-year-old son and I take turns
extending and withdrawing our arms,
moving the picture in front of our noses,
crossing our eyes until they tear.

I can’t see a thing,
I say, frustrated, suspicious.
I can!, he cries,
I see it!
What?, I ask, What do you see?

And he tells me:

a deer’s leg
a lizard
penguins dancing
crocodiles in a blue river

little monster guys that become a river
black stuff that is the legs of a monster
a river of lava that looks like a snake
a fish gun
something sort of like the sea

a black eyeball
(and he laughs: I just made that one up!)
a lizard with spikes on his back
and a white arm with spots of lava
a worm and a crocodile
with lava eyes

I turn the postcard upside down
to find out the answer.
The hidden image is: A Spaceship.
I don’t tell him.
Let the penguins dance
and the lava monsters sing
in the bottomless black deeps
of his eyes.




Morning Journal


He writes with his left hand, curled upside down,
carving deep grooves in the paper,
while his right hand rests at the bottom of the page.
His face is unfurrowed, a dish of milk,
but now and then the pink tip of his tongue
peeks out between his lips.

We are in the kitchen, writing in our journals.

Does it matter whether I say “My mom, my dad, and I”
or “My dad, my mom, and I”?

More is more, I tell my stingy heart
each time he interrupts my thinking.

I dreamed about Fancy the goat, she was with us in the garden.
I called Fe-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-ency, and she came to me and nuzzled my hands.

Think of it as an experiment: See whether you can be mindful
while an eight-year-old sits beside you, thinking out loud.
Watch your own thoughts cluster and dissolve,
dissipating like sun-struck clouds.
How many directions can octopus-mind go
with all its tentacles attached?

He leaves the room and returns a minute later,
a sketch pad and thick-leaded pencil in his hands,
and begins to draw the shoreline.
Concentration swoons on his face
as his hand glides across the white surface
and the lines become waves: the sea.
Then he grabs the eraser and presses down hard,
rubbing it all away.

And begins again—
traveler’s palm, papaya,
banana leaf shaking in the wind—
the pencil shuttling back and forth,
his tongue slipping in and out,
feet crossed snugly at the ankles,
eyes dipping down . . .

His silence compels you more than his chatter,
luring you in, further and further,
as you watch him probe the body of the world,
watch as he grows, inscrutably,
the inexorable motion pulling him away,
the unstoppable engine pushing him toward manhood,

this child of yet no gender and no age,
child of everything and nothing.




Trout for Breakfast


We’re in the first movement, the third variation on the theme:
it makes him think of a circus, he says,
all those skippy piano notes.
Also (because he knows the name)
of a trout flipping around in the water.

Though the image is given, the interpretation—
the dramatization
is all his own:
he swims around the kitchen, flapping his arms,
gracelessly, joyously lightfooted,
until he gets to the refrigerator, where he whisks out a carton of milk.
Then he swims back to the table and pours himself a glass.
A trout drinking a glass of milk.

When the chords of the fifth variation stream in, I ask what he hears.
Oh, he says matter-of-factly, that’s the man trying to catch the fish,
but the fish gets away.
It’s kind of sad and kind of happy. Both.

With the last variation he is gloating: The fish is proud!
Here I am in the middle of the lake!

He stays in the world of the lake for long, sustained minutes.
When the melancholy Andantino makes its entrance,
breaking your heart for the thousandth time,
he begins to sway.
His green eyes dance—
his whole body, seated, dances—
no matter what melody, what tempo,
he cannot help but dance.

He is the trout, not the man—
not yet the man—




My Son Likes Weather


Any kind of weather.
If you say, It’s a beautiful day,
he says, What day isn’t?

He likes to look through his window at the arc of trees—
he sleeps on the sunporch, so he can wake to trees—
and he doesn’t mind when the view is fogged over:
he’s happy it will rain, afterwards the earth
will bulge with mushrooms.

That pear looks nice, he says when he comes into the kitchen.
He’s not hungry, he’s talking about the fruit ripening on the sill,
he says he likes the way the morning light
falls on its bumpy contours,
making it look like the face of an old person.

He likes the crackle of leaves under his feet in the fall;
in winter, he likes to crunch the skin of ice
just beginning to form on puddles
and walk city pavements lined with snow,
even old snow with its blackened crust.

He likes the in-between, the days
that are neither blue nor gray,
the long afternoons when you sense something—
the season, or perhaps something else—
is about to end.

Let’s go for a walk, he’ll say then,
let’s go to the garden.






I was afraid.
I had been awake all night thinking about the warnings.
Thinking about being so far from my son, only twelve years old,
unable to get to him in time.

I went walking in the woods.
I walked and walked,
and the leaves were yellow and the leaves were red,
and I gathered some red and yellow ones and a few still green,
and talked aloud to myself, keeping myself company.
Under a huge maple tree, I stopped to sort them,
choosing them, one by one,
making a bundle to fill my arms.
Then holding them against my chest, I continued on.

I came upon another walker, the only other person I’d seen that day,
and she was weeping.
When she passed by me, she touched my arm,
riches on riches.

I was almost back at the field near the edge of the woods
when I stopped behind a big rock to pee,
leaving my armful of leaves at the side of the trail.
The rock was only a few meters away, but when I returned
I couldn’t find the leaves.
I was distraught, and, even so, I reproached myself for caring,
blamed myself for trying to take so much with me
and for still wanting to, nevertheless.

And I remembered my son’s face
and the light wet touch on my arm.




He Is Almost Old Enough to Be Taken



I was staring into the eyes of a teenage soldier,
unable to turn away,
when Abby, not yet two, crawled into my lap,
and blocked my view of the TV.
He opened his arms as wide as he could,
encircling my chest,
and pressed his warm face into my breastbone.

This would not be the last time
he would read my face for signs of fear.

The war ended.
Some years passed, another began.

Today he is sixteen. I stand on tiptoe
to kiss his cheek.
He doesn’t squirm, but his arms
remain awkward at his sides.



I walk the rim of the garden
around and around, like a monk in meditation.
The princess tree drops its purple flowers.
They fall on my head and shoulders.

My boy is inside the house,
watching through the window.
I glimpse his face each time I turn the corner.

They have not told us when this war will end.

I am no monk, but I try for faith.
I fight back my fear
of the evil eye—the force that threatens
whatever one loves best.

I keep walking, my feet crushing petals,
pressing them back into the ground.
My eyes are lowered
but when I pass the window
I cannot help but steal another glance.

Each petal returned to earth
is a talisman.
With every step, my feet say Stay.











Marcia Falk is the author of The Book of Blessings, a bilingual re-creation of Jewish prayer in poetic forms, as well as several books of poetry, among them, This Year in Jerusalem, It Is July in Virginia, and My Son Likes Weather. Her translations include The Song of Songs: Love Lyrics from the Bible, The Spectacular Difference: Selected Poems of Zelda, and With Teeth in the Earth: Selected Poems of Malka Heifetz Tussman.


She is also a painter; her art may be viewed at :

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