RDW's poems

3- First Date

She managed to get out on day release
Nights in the briars, days she went to work
and walked about, and shopped, and rode the bus
but not the tube — not down, not under ground

It took her years.  Before that she stayed in
until the bailiffs called her to the court
The poll tax got her – got to everyone

And so I met her – on her day release
and asked her for a date: said “Sleeping Beauty,
would you like to come to lunch with me?”

She said she couldn’t eat until the sun
went down – that’s how it had to be until
three days had passed, and this day was the third.
I knew it was some magic hold on her

Some unnamed charm or spell.  And so we met
by night, by torchlight, hidden from the sun.
I asked to know what was this sundown spell

“It’s not a thing I bother with most years.
I’m not observant  if that’s what you think
It’s in our calendar.  My parent’s kept
a celebration of our memories.

They had to.  Memories were what they had:
two refugees,  Polish – Hungarian,
tossed up in a provincial Canadian town.
St John – no, not St John’s:  St John –

New Brunswick – funny place to raise a Jew
though there were others, and there was
a Hebrew school for after normal school.
I went along and studied – good Jewish girl

But you don’t understand – you Princes don’t
get trained in anything but C of E
This is Atonement – this was the third day
and both my parent’s families were destroyed

for being Jews, and they were all that’s left
and now I’m all that’s left of what once were
two large entire extended families

And I cannot atone for all who died
It is too much.  Too much
My father already had a family –
before the war.   What should have been

my family: should have been
except if they had lived – their mother lived –
then I would not be here, not have been born.

I am the daughter of the holocaust

It weighs on me.  It gets me down
If you don’t mind I’ll just sit here and cry
It’s better when I cry, when I can cry”

And so we sat there with our food
kebabs in London W1
and cried, and she could not atone
and I could hardly comprehend

One tourist trip to Dachau didn’t make
of me an honorary Jew, much less begin
to understand my own, my Prussian past

The Prussian stands guard over Briar Rose


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