What to Say

by Talya Jankovits


Three months into the pandemic,
I tried to return the library books, but
there was a tape over the slot,
the sign said no returns accepted.

Thirty books grabbed from the library
the last day it was open
now live with us;
our last connection
to the outside world.

Everything is happening outside of our home.
The five of us are in this together,
(I say five, because Daniel gets to leave.)

I am raising four girls.
I want them to be anti-racist.
I want them to be good people.
I want them to stand up.
And it is all I can do to
get a moment
to go to the bathroom by myself.

I put Mara to bed at the end of the day,
exhausted.
She asks me to read her
Princess Cupcake Jones
By Ylleya Fields.

All day, I am speechless.
I open the book.
For the first time
since this morning,
I know exactly what to say.



Talya Jankovits’ work has appeared in Tablet, Kveller, Bartleby Snopes, Hevria, Lilith, Literary Mama, The Jewish Literary Journal, and The Citron Review, among others. Her short story, “Undone,” in Lunch Ticket was nominated for the 2013 Pushcart prize. Her poem, “A Woman of Valor,” is featured in the 2019/2020 Eshet Hayil exhibit at Hebrew Union College Los Angeles. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and resides in Chicago with her husband and four daughters. Karen Shimizu is not fond of writing bios. She loves to draw, paint, cook, garden and play cello, but does none of those things professionally. Professionally, she is the executive editor of Food & Wine magazine. She lives with her family in Birmingham, Alabama.

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