Vivienne Popperl

My sister says she remembers

seeing our grandfather

recite his morning prayers.

She sat in the low blue velvet arm chair

swinging her short legs.

She stared up at him

as he swayed

back and forth,

his lips opening and closing

releasing scratchy whispers

into the early morning sunshine.

I think I saw my brother pray.

Or maybe it’s a photo I remember.

He wound black leather straps

around his left arm and across his forehead

so that the little black boxes

containing the special Hebrew words

were tied close to his heart

and as frontlets between his eyes.

I didn’t know what frontlets were

until I searched in the dictionary:

A decorative band or ornament

worn on the forehead.

Girls could mouth the words

but never bind them next to their hearts

with soft leather

or as frontlets between their eyes.

Maybe that’s why my father,

his voice icy quiet,

ordered me to remove

the narrow ribbon

patterned with flowers

twisted around my forehead,

holding down my dark curly hair.

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Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has appeared in Rain Magazine, VoiceCatcher, an online journal of women’s voices and vision, The Poeming Pigeon, and Persimmon Tree Journal. She was honored to serve as a poetry co-editor for the Fall 2017 edition of VoiceCatcher magazine.