Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Question

A Question:

What can we say about the past when so much of the past is lost?

It's a question that I ask myself all the time.  I asked it when I wrote my first poem about my parents in 1979, and it's a question I ask myself whenever I think of my latest book about my parents, Echoes of Tattered Tongues.

My mother felt the weight of her mother's death and her sister's death and her sister's baby's death at the hands of the Germans all her life, but what can I know of those deaths.

There was my mother's horror when she told me the stories, but my mother could not tell me much without breaking down, turning her face and its tears away from me.

And so what's left to learn, what can I know about my mother's grief, my grandmother's face when she was shot again and again, my aunt's absolute sorrow when she saw her baby daughter kicked to death, the baby's screams that would not stop?

There are no photographs of what happened, no news reports, no eye witnesses now that even my mother is gone, and all that's left is just a handful of broken memories that will never truly belong to me.  

What's left to say?

Please let me know.


The photo is of my mom and her sister Zofia who survived the war.  It was taken outside of a refugee camp in Germany.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Perhaps what matters most now is not so much seeking to say more about what is no longer but to observe how even a heart so broken can be resilient. That your mother and father survived their horrors gave you a past to think about and to serve, as you've done, in your extraordinary poems.

I have always felt something great was lost when my father died in 1990, age 73. He never talked about his experiences in WWII as a member of the famous Merrill's Marauders in China, Burma, and India, a group whose membership was decimated. And because he was orphaned at age 4, I know nothing of his past, except that his father was Greek and that he was a first-generation American; his was a past denied, that is, unknowable, to me and my siblings. I think I might give a lot to have had from him even "a handful of broken memories".