Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One more time-capsule poem

I wrote this one in 1998, as a creative writing major at Oberlin. My mother uses it in the introduction of her soon-to-be-published memoir, (Re)vision of a Life: My Mother’s Holocaust Story.


a welling up of voices,
sorrowed, pious
and heavy with deference

these are
the dizzying heights
of mourning, of seeking out
the unanswerable questions
and answering them once more

this is
how He would have us weep,
how the order of things must be,
how lives at their end
are marked by narrow grooves
worn into the Rock of Ages

raised on the odor
of old pine pews,
the child finds his place
in the Holy Ark, his lullabies
the swelling hymns and distant,
hollow voices of the dead

And here's a passage from my mother's book:
I am the only child of Holocaust survivors. As is the case with most of the second generation, I am one of very few of our family members left in the world. I never knew my grandparents or a host of other relatives who could have filled my bank of memories and experiences while growing up. Instead, they were photographs to me—and stories. I always felt different in that regard as a child, except when I was around others who had suffered similar losses even before they were born. My recollection of childhood memories is incomplete, but the Leitmotif is certainly the Holocaust. My mother would say with both grief and pride: “I am from the Holocaust. I am the survivor, the only one left from my big family.” And now my son Neal and I are the only ones left from her side of the family.

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