My Paradise
by Anna Halberstadt Anna Halberstadt

Born and raised in Vilnius, Lithuania, Anna Halberstadt moved to Moscow at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Moscow State University. She immigrated to New York twelve years later to attend Hunter College, where she earned a degree in social work. Since 1980, she has worked as a clinician, teacher, and administrator of mental health clinics specializing in the adaptation of immigrants, with a special interest in immigrants from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries.

She has published many works in her field of psychology but has found poetry to be a more adequate and condensed way to expand on the same themes—growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors in a country still struggling with past trauma, living in three countries (Lithuania, Russia, U.S.), and immigration. Her creative work has been published by Bluestem, Cimarron Review, Forge, St. Petersburg Review, and Tiferet, and translations of her poems in the Lithuanian journals Literatūra Ir Menas and Šiaurės Atėnai, and she studied with Saskia Hamilton and Eileen Myles.

There is nothing refined about paradise.
I'd been there more than once.
Paradise must be vulgar
Like your first orgasm
however memorable it may have been.
An endless stretch of soft but springy
white sand under your feet,
water that puts the Black Sea to shame
despite the Russian song
claiming it is the bluest sea
in the world.
A handful of decrepit fishing boats
a string of hungry pelicans
agitating above.
Diminutive Mexican women with Indian features
who call themselves Mayans
bathing in underwear with their kids.
Weightlessness in transparent water
like flying
or a thirteen-year-old boy's wet dream.
A shamelessly topless obese German tourist
wades past my Americanized awareness
of imperfection in my no-longer-easy-to-wear body.
Still, this place is as close to paradise
as the breakfast terrace is
for the young fearless blackbird
that keeps flying in and out
and landing
amid our leftovers.

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