He woke up with his index fingers poised behind his thumbs,
an omen of good luck that quelled his shivering and shaking
whenever the woman he met called his name.

Their eyes met on their book-laden, nickle subway ride to school
He came from a household of greenhorns. She was a descendent
of Nordic Bavarians with voluptuous breasts and sun-yellow pigtails.
Being in her presence made his flesh quiver and quake, heaving his body
like a fast moving crest of a foaming swell without his say-so, the way
spontaneous combustion suddenly bursts into flames.

Shunned by both families, he, scorned as a sheeny, she, deemed a forbidden
shiksa, they fled to California leaving his tefillen, tzitzis and black fedora behind
as his parents sat Shiva and hers offered novenas of mourning at Our Lady of Peace.

She danced out of bed each morning singing heavenly trills
attuned to a fluted chorus of goldfinches and chickadees flitting
about the florabunda of their re-imagined Dickinson’s garden.
He applauded from a rocking chair sipping a Sacramento
Cabernet Sauvignon until she taught him how to jitterbug,
and they’d dance the night away.

But one day, birds sang by themselves. He brought her
a glass of hand-squeezed orange juice, the only way to get her out of bed.
Her dancing shoes no longer left the closet;
she lay about like a sick cat, her glittering smile never lit up a room again.

She was his everything. He was nothing without her, loving her down
to the marrow in her bones. One day she stopped moving and appeared
to be in a Snow White sleep, barely breathing in a sublime stillness.

Breathing in unison as if body and soul could merge, he rubbed her feet
and kissed each sweet finger to no avail. He longed to be cocooned inside
her; love-drunk, he held her, waiting for her final breath.