Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

[Four Poems]

by Rachel Gellman

Things That Smell Good

Star lilies, tuberose & mock orange 
blossoms. Garlic chopped & sizzling 
in olive oil. Rain. Used bookstores 
and the old ladies’ hands that ring you up. 
A familiar friend’s shirt, borrowed, 
then pulled over head. Mac-n-cheese-eating
toddlers. Swimming pools in summer, 
kids smothered in Coppertone. Towels 	
straight from the dryer—your mother 
shimmying your shoulders. That first full breath 
after parting with a port-o-potty. Fresh paint. 
Soil wet & caked on hands. Golden hay 
in the heat. Not the floors of meatpacking 
plants or the beach by a sewage leak, 
and certainly not his armpit-stained tank top 
in that pile of filthy laundry nor the dead 
violets in that vase you’ve yet to throw 
away because the day you do that 
is the day it’s really over.


The Kosher Cobbler

Tel Aviv: A staircase, mountains 
of shoes, his hands. I choose a pair 
in brown. He brings a box down—
holds it, but before heading to the register,
asks: you have a boyfriend? No, I say. 
How long have you been in Israel?
Ten days. 10 days, and you
have not found a Kosher boyfriend? 
He walks over to the register,
rubs his hand over his buzzed head 
and says, you are too serious... 
too hard. I laugh, but he looks into my eyes:
You act hard on the outside, but it’s really 
because you are so sensitive on the inside. 
He writes down philosophers’ names
for me, points, says, read. As I 
move to leave, he pleads: You need 
to be young...have fun...make love.
You don’t need a serious boyfriend,
but you come back here when you want 
a good Kosher one. 


11 Years Ago, Sarah Stands on the Land of the Green Lady

Braces race across her teeth. Stray hairs, too short 
to fit in her thick ponytail, halo her head. 

She is young, a kid, her arms eagled over the Atlantic. 
Behind her, like steel bunny ears, the Twin Towers 

cast a shadow-ladder from her head, her hair, 
to Manhattan. A finger creeps over a corner 

of the camera lens, the peach smudge
a centimeter from those towers, as if they’re flies 

some thumb could smash. In the city, 
Sarah smashes with friends down 5th, gossips 

about who sat by who on the bus, her laugh 
challenging taxis, Times Square & all of the pigeons.


In May, it snowed, though we did not play in the California 
flakes of tissues that fell to the ground in the church. 

Her sister shivered with her mother by the casket 
as the rest of us followed the procession to the grass. 


Saturday Morning Rituals

As the recycling man emptied my bag
into a big metal garbage can, an old
but spry man walked up to the parking lot.
Everyone stopped & said hello to him
as if he were a grandfather to all. He carried 
two bulging black bags of cans in his veined 
& thin-skinned hands. You couldn’t have drank 
all those cans by yourself, I nudged. He chuckled: 
I rally the kids at the middle school to help me collect 
them from the trash during recess. I recalled 
my Northern California middle school days: 
if we collected a bag full of cans,
our teacher bought us a pizza for lunch. 
I give the money back to the school, he said 
after I asked what he got with the cash.
But on one condition, he held up his finger.
Do you know what the poor kids never have enough of?
I guessed food. I guessed school supplies. 
Shoes, he said. The cans buy shoes for the kids 
who can’t buy shoes. 



SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Rachel Gellman

is a poet & teacher in San Diego. For her 25th birthday, she built a slip-n-slide and used it for several months, sometimes in place of her shower. You can contact her or read more of her work at

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury