Shoa and post Shoa

A Camp Song Newly Heard

Once there was Elzunia.
She is dying all alone,
Because her daddy is in Maidanek,
And in Auschwitz her mommy . . .

Elzunia's remains,
scrawled on a card, sewn
into a coat pocket . . .

1943.  The rest of her song
is blood, though we know
the tune to sing: "A Spark
Is Twinkling on the Ash Grate."
A spark is glowing

on the page that keeps
Elzunia' s words—
a voice long dead is heard,
a voice from the fire cries

because her mommy in Auschwitz
died, and in Maidanek her daddy,
because she died alone,
because she was Elzunia.

A Child Survivor 
For Arthur Kurzweil

With the help of a Catholic
woman, one of the righteous
among the nations, she escaped
from the blazing furnace of Warsaw.

For 18 years, she was protected
even loved   but it was only when a nun
let the truth flare under the sun
that the child —long since become

a lovely young woman —listened
and learned.  Yet that other world
remained unapproachably distant —
the dark side of her private moon —

for the child she had been
lived only in whispers   in fleeting dreams 
in the unilluminated space of a lost galaxy 
in the billionth billionth lightyear

of the heart.  Only after marriage
and the birth of her own child —
that miracle of history and continuance —
could she feel in her blood

the true worth of the gift her mother
had given her: she was a Jew
who had survived.

My Mother's Candlesticks

My mother couldn't read Hebrew
but she knew the value of things
That's why she saved newspapers
until the pages turned brittle
and the newsprint broke into flakes 
and why she kept old friendships burning
long after her friends were dead:
anything worth reading would speak to her next year   
and true friends would never tire of listening     
My mother loved those candlesticks 
and kept them polished faithfully   
yet she did not kindle their fire     
Neither silver nor gold,
they had come down to her from her mother's —
from her grandmother's —hands  
tarnished pitted the last brassy patina gone     
The cups were akilter   
the wobbly bottoms would not align 
but these battered objects could hold two candles 
My mother knew the blessing once   
far back in her girlhood   
but the flames blew out when her mother died     
These flames that glimmer still in Malaga Thessaloniki Berlin     
These flames that are the ancient news of our people     
These flames that await the match in my fingers  
and the Barukh atah on my lips.

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