That summer father moved farther away,
framed by a larger event: a President
elected, the Communists uncovered,
and two Jews executed in their place.
So mother mourned a parallel of deaths,
losses to be measured against the past,
At the march I was confused by the masses
of people gathered, a stranger’s breath
and tears. Could they have known
what my father meant? It seems a long time ago,
the personal life, the tiny room
I lived in as a child, But there is a photograph
which opens up almost like a porch
looking out to a field: a family’s
out there, sitting on the weeds
calling flowers by improper names.
Then someone’s called away, then another,
till the field is the future’s
reflecting glass. Someone’s called to the gallows,
grandfather spits on the czar
when he’s asked to serve, father drives off
in his Chevrolet. The road’s terminal,
he can’t turn back. The lights dim
momentarily, then the Jews
who inhabited this earth illuminate
the flesh then flake to ash.
Who’s to blame? The slogans at the march
don’t seem strong enough, but the Communists
are partly right: everything’s a struggle,
and to forget the past is to give up hope.