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This is a cycle of poems I wrote in 1989 after a visit with my mother to Krakóv – where my family on my mother’s side came from.
I recently found them among my mother’s papers and I corrected and edited them. I do not pretend this is great poetry, but it reflects my thoughts and feelings upon visiting this emotionally charged city where my grandparents – and, for a couple of years, my mother – lived. My grandfather grew up in the Jewish ghetto Kazimierz, in a building that looks on the cemetery where the famous Rabbi Moses Isserles (writer of the Shulchan Aruch) is buried. My mother told me about the poverty and unsanitary circumstances in the ghetto; she saw it every time they visited her grandparents there. I visited the other cemetery, where many of my relatives (the ones who were lucky enough to die before the nazi occupation) are buried. I found graves of some of them.

I dedicate these poems to my Mother’s memory.

Two halves united
like Persephone in ancient times
led by your hand I enter
the land of shadows
as a bride – the gloomy king
forges in vain
chains made of Then

Outside new life beckons
the eternally young Queen
the sun caresses your hands, my skin –
then, underground chains rattle
me back in a soft whisper

Summer here, winter there
my life is split
since you gave me both
the gap closed
the Styx navigable
and me – a fragile bridge.


Buildings die slowly
grief shatters stones
skin bursts in nameless pain
doors as open wounds
never closed
walls mould feverishly

to die like this –
among strangers
listening, shivering
doorsteps wait for a beloved foot
life remembered in vain
in this emptiness
full of Then.

No flowers for empty streets
filled with decay and disgust
let the end come quickly now
body without a soul

buildings degraded to bricks
housing nothing but slimy rot
nothing will bring back together
what was separated by man.

Let us carry you to your grave
under a clear sky, in the light
of a cold, cold day
our eyes without tears.

3 Uprising in the ghetto
to stay to look to see
nameless courage in vain
streets covered with bodies,
warm, pierced – everywhere
you stand or walk
here they lay
feel the warmth of their blood
feel the softness of their strength
feel the harshness of their deaths
feel the unknown names –
etched in every stone.


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