Since You Ask
……… where the old letters are. Forgive me for not sugaring the tea,
the scent of Zwetschgenknödel gloried with cinnamon, haunting
your memory. Maybe fireflies will light the darkness in here, maybe
the missives will hold better news. The postcard you sent to a friend
for translation was only to say there wasn’t time left; our Vienna home,
it’s fountains and sculptures, its halls of music and lecture vanishing
under Nazi flags. You want to know how we died, why we risked
staying put in hopes the war would end, that Hitler might be caught
in the spotlight, but no one wanted to believe a population would be
so cruel, desire to cleanse the streets, the museum, our apartments of us.
So, our brother escaped to America with his catholic wife, their two
young children, and we are so happy for this miracle, that our sister
and her husband helped them find passage. You wonder we must have
felt so alone, why our younger brother who stayed behind wasn’t gassed
and as we were, nor cremated, no last gasp passing through his lips
like six million others. You wait for the next word, work to interpret
the Sütterlinschrift in our hand, mine looping, and hers slim and slanted.
There is no ending in the way we’d have imagined, but endings go on.
Swallow what you translate and fly with it. We give you our blessing,
we pray you take it and tell the world why we never arrived.
How to Pack a Suitcase — Leaving Vienna, 1941
Ronda Piszk Broatch is the author of Lake of Fallen Constellations, (MoonPath Press), and is the recipient of an Artist Trust GAP Grant. Ronda’s journal publications include Fugue, Blackbird, 2River, Sycamore Review, Missouri Review, Palette Poetry, and NPR News / KUOW’s All Things Considered. She is a graduate student working toward her MFA at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop.
Thank you for your kind comment!
Thank you for this beautiful poem.