jennifer zaslow

the flight or the seed

my great grandmother fled through russia following the lines she kept
on a map she drew in her palm
and when sweat and salt and heavy things
washed them away
she followed the lifeline that stretched
from the base of her wrist
to between the high peaks of her index finger and thumb
she showed her brother, my great uncle mendel
pointing to her palm
here’s the river she said that means we’re getting closer
and he said but see how long our journey is?

she brought three things
the first was mendel
who i imagine like the byzantine christ child
ancient face, baby’s body
the second was the samovar
that my mother fought and clawed for when we divided up the will
and the third was a child inside her
who would grow to be my grandfather

through the walls of his womb, my grandfather heard the musical drawlings of a southern russian
iosif dzhugashvili, who had changed his name to stalin
because he hated his accent
and wanted it to sound like steel breaking bodies
in iron fists

how could i stay here she asked herself
aware of her organic insides, her fleshy body that she loved so much
she could not stay for a man of metal and promises
and whispering the tefilat haderech, the traveler’s prayer
she and mendel flew with bodies that grew wings

when she came to brooklyn, they called her goldie
and she gave birth to a son who had a son who had a son
as though they’d always existed inside each other
like a russian doll
and had traveled all that way just for the joy of existing
a few years after she had forgotten how to speak
and a few days before i was born
she held her lined hand
to my mothers belly
to show me the way out

jennifer zaslow was educated in New York but received two scholarships to study at Oxford University in England and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. She was able to work on writing and British literature, as well as French and translation. She just got her Master’s in teaching English, but is still feeling a little too young to teach high school students. She has been published twice this year, both magazines out of California. She has folded 1000 origami cranes. She makes her own yogurt. She learned to read before she could speak. She still climbs trees. You can check out her other poetry at