Judith Sanders


Italian Lesson

Good day! How do you call yourself?
It pleases me much to know you.
How do you stay? Much good!
Hear to me, and I teach to you many mistakes.
Italian is easy! Everybody speak it! Just add O.
Umbrell-o. Lighthouse-o. Fart-o. Jell-O.
Understand-o? Also, rrrroll yourrr rrrrs.
And learn quickly the ten forms of “the.”
Including the plural, thus.
Now, we can converse.
Is there a café near here? A bank machine? A church?
Yes, straight ahead and to the left. Or the right.
Sit you at this feminine little table.
Waiters, I like the bill, or rather the menu.
I will take a beer. Hot, please.
Oops, I mean yellow.
Of where do you come?
I am of the States United. And thee?
I am from Rome, France, or Milan.
I am sportive. It pleases me much to sing.
Would you like to walk to the cinema with me?
But yes. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Monday.
I am roast pork. No, am smelly. No.
Am tired, in masculine form.
Also I. Is there one hotel here near?
It displeases me much, but no.
But yes, to the right and to the left.
There is a room free with a matrimonial bed?
Yes/ no, there is/ is not, was/ was not, will be/ will not be.
How much it costs? It is dear?
Of agreement, then.
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night.
Until soon. Until rrrready
for the lesson number two.
Good luck-o.

The Universe with Borscht

“Better my borscht without your universe,
than your universe without my borscht.”
—Golde in
Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem

I am,
so I think.

I think,
so I am,
so I hear—

But instead
I think,
am I?

I feel like I am,
but I think
I might not be.

Especially in the morning
before I’ve had coffee.

I feel I’m so big
but know I’m so

I feel solid,
but my particles
are empty.
When you call me airhead,
you’re right.

How can life be so short
when one afternoon
pushing a stroller
lasts an eternity?

Yet 13.8 billion years
have passed in an eyeblink.
That’s how long
my atoms have existed.
Which would explain
why my knees don’t work.

If everything is made
of the same stardust,
why am I not as beautiful
as a slice of red onion?

The universe is expanding.
Including my waistline.

The black hole at the center?
Maybe that’s where
my credit card went.

Some creatures think
the dark ocean bottom
is all there is.
I’m like that
without my glasses.

Though there may be
worlds within worlds,
is anything anywhere
as good as this cheesecake?

How can I think the crashing surf
represents eternity
when I know it looks different
to a mosquito or my dog?

I may be matter,
but I don’t matter,
and that’s the matter.

I know everything
I know
is wrong,
Yet I still believe it.
I eat breakfast and go to work
as if the universe
depended on it.

Judith Sanders, an eccentric Victorian aristocrat, a French intellectual, a socialist kibbutznik, and an Amish housewife, somehow grew up in a New Jersey housing development as a red-diaper granddaughter of Yiddish immigrants. She too immigrated by traversing cultural divides to join the first class of women at Yale. She was lured into the underworld of academia, from which she emerged clutching an ornamental MA in writing and a PhD in English. After, she spent decades talking to herself in front of students. Meanwhile she published in well-meaning journals and anthologies; a couple of her poems lucked into winning prizes.