Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fifty Years Earlier

If I were born fifty years earlier

I would sit in a café in Paris,

Trade wit, find work writing copy

And critique, adventure in the arts and love,

Drink dark coffee and absinthe.

I would meet people in occluded rooms,

Crowded stations, and hush

Listen carefully, I will only say this once,

Pass small slips with single names,

Hide men in my attic,

Wonder about tomorrow.

If I were born fifty years earlier

I would say the proper brucha

Each morning, listen to my papa,

Go to yeshiva, study Talmud,

Marry whom I was told.

I would look toward the steppes

And one day see the horses,

My small town in smoke,

My footprints and cart tracks behind me,

Hope for a ticket of passage,

Wonder about tomorrow.

If I were born fifty years earlier

I would go to school

In the town with everyone else,

Shop in the markets,

Consider myself a citizen.

I would one day hear the crashing windows,

See the walls built, the paint flow,

The armbands and the army trucks,

Wonder what we had done,

Avoid the uniforms,

Wonder about tomorrow.


Jennie said...

And if I had been born fifty years earlier, I would do whatever it took to come find you, like my uncle did, when he, at 16, seeing the black cars parked in front of his home, didn't stop on his way home from school, but walked from Italy through the Alps, all the way to the channel, where he crossed and continued on until he finally reached Scotland, where he convinced the powers that be to let him become a paratrooper (all the unexploded Scotsmen being gone, by then) and returned to rescue what remained of his family and help kick the Fascists out of his country.

Your friends would never let mere time and space hide you from us, or mere overwhelming odds stay our hands.

We would go to any lengths for you.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You have such a way of invoking time and place. The seams are just blurry enough between each vignette to move between characters, yet evoke an era vividly and pull the reader's emotions along with it, especially in the final gut-wrenching paragraph.