Yossele, of blessed memory,
our neighbor, a fighter
in the Warsaw Ghetto, who forty
years later stood by the mohel
at our son’s circumcision,
remarked to my husband, ‘Your son,
you know, he didn’t even cry.’
Three large bricks
saved from the Warsaw Ghetto are set
as a mason would lay them.
There is no way to know their place
in the wall or imagine
what they might have witnessed.
I stood, hesitated, in front of the bricks,
then touched them—
how coarse, how dry to my fingers—
I wanted to leave and go
straight to the Kotel to rest
my hands on the stones where their crevices
overflow with notes and petitions
and longings, where the women
weep Psalms, and the wall
is wet with tears, with kisses.
The Chairs at Potsdam
April 1995, Reunion of The Lost Transport, April 1945
On this trip to elsewhere,
shoulder to shoulder, standing,
early evening in the mansion’s
tall-windowed light, a quartet
plays Brahms, all sombre.
An official, German, begins
a mea culpa where the language
of his speech moves to Hebrew,
to English, every word spoken
returns to German, Hebrew, English.
I watch, beside my husband,
younger among this crowd
of the living, elderly with spouses,
children, grandchildren, in this grand,
airless room. Standing, leaning, weary,
thirsty, hungry, from the day’s long
journey—from Belsen to Berlin.
No chairs to sit on, only the royal
gilded armchairs, cordoned off,
circled round the giant, red-draped
table where Heads of State –
heads of lions carved on the shoulders
of their chairs – met a half-century ago.
Little by little I step through
the tight crowd. One agéd woman,
her husband, others, sit strong,
trespassed the red-braided cordon,
by the vast, red-draped table.
Our eyes meet, she smiles, aware,
welcomes my nod—as she sits
seated on Truman’s, or Stalin’s,
or on Churchill’s chair.