The child presses her face against the window glass,
watches as the sun sinks into the sea
and the first stars appear in the sky.
She makes a wish as one streaks, burns, and falls
vanishing like her neighbors.
(“Poor things,” her mother had said
when she saw their yellow stars.)
She wonders if they will send her a postcard
from wherever they are,
and if she can change her wish–
to see them again,
the doctor with the kind eyes
and his playful daughters with their flowing-wheat hair.
The child, older now,
presses her face against a now-cracked window,
watches the stars in a clear sky,
the bombs silenced,
she hears wind-murmurs
of hope returned and dreams remembered
bittersweet, like chocolate she ate—before.
She sees in streams of starlight
a vision sowed in sparkling silver waves,
and hopes her long-ago wish
will take root and grow.
I was writing something else, and the memory of painting above just popped into my head. One doesn’t ignore those things. I went looking for it in my posts and found a poem I had written several years ago. I’ve revised it slightly. Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), sundown 27 April to sundown 28 April. The current war in Ukraine and the rise of authoritarian governments everywhere, makes this seem particularly timely. In one of the horrible ironies of this time, Jews, including Holocaust survivors, have fled Ukraine to seek refuge in Berlin.
Sharing this with Open Link Night on dVerse.
wonderful, thanks 😊😊
Thank you. 😊
The way you painted this poem was so poignant. It really is as if not written, but expressed through the terribly sad wishes and emotions. Such a strong piece.
Thank you so much, Ain. I appreciate that.
What a moving and touching poem. I can see the war references there and it makes me sad for those children most specially. Good luck on the daily writing.
Thank you so much, Grace.
Marvelously relayed, M. Thanks. I’d almost overlooked the date. I had a Yom HaShoah piece published a few years back at Poetry Super Highway. I thought you might be interested: https://eggsovertokyo.blogspot.com/2012/04/whither-thou-goest.html
Thank you Ron. Poignant. We can’t really know, but empathy is valuable, too.
I’m glad you didn’t ignore your memory of that painting. The resulting poem is needed more today than ever.
Thank you so much, Liz.
You’re welcome, Merril.
A painting, and the words, both worth revisiting. They just had an article here about the growing percentages of hate crimes against Jews in the city. It’s all of a piece, this hate. In the end, no one is spared. (K)
Thank you, Kerfe. It is true about the hate.
Before I read the author’s note, your imagery reminded me of survivors from the Holocaust. Something felt familiar to me about it and it fell into place reading your after note and thoughts. I find it eloquently beautiful, mesmeric, and saddening glimpsing at the stars and them vanishing throughout the years; how symbolic of survival in this tragedy and the many lives lost, and the innocence lost as well. You capture the transitory period for the narrator well from a child not knowing too much and then an adolescent clinging onto hopes she once made as a child. My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor so I only can imagine the horrors he truly went through; he recommended a movie–The Pianist–which he said was the closest depiction of what he experienced in Auschwitz, and after screening it, I still fail to grasp the extent of our historical tragedies. The Ukraine included, can we even imagine to begin to understand what their people are going through and even their children? Ironically, coverage of the events regarding Russia and the Ukraine have decreased, and I wonder what it says about the United States. Are we merely attracted to the ethos of chaos or are we onlookers? Mmm. Perhaps I am too cynical, but it was similar with what happened when the United States intervened in Europe to liberate the camps, it was too late for the most part as many people were already dead.
Thank you so much for your detailed response, Lucy. I always wonder if I have distant relatives who perished in the Holocaust–perhaps in those mass graves uncovered in Belarus. My grandfather’s half-sisters somehow ended up in Siberia. . . It is interesting that your grandfather thought The Pianist was the closest depiction to Auschwitz. We saw it in the theater when it first came out. From what I remember it is set in Warsaw–the ghetto, uprising, and the pianist living in the rubble afterward. I think in WWII, the US was involved in a balancing act, and FDR was trying to work with racists in Congress while aiding the allies. Cynical, perhaps, but that is how politics works. It took Pearl Harbor to get us into the war.
Oops, I meant he thought that it was the closest depiction of what he went through entirely, not just in the concentration camps. He was in multiple camps and the last one he was in was Auschwitz. I do not know much about his life in the ghettos, I only know snippets from what my mother had told me growing up, and at times, it is hard to both imagine and comprehend his experiences. I do know that prior to the ghettos, most of the older men were sent to work as laborers, his father being one of them. He may have been a roofer? I am not sure.
That is true. To me, history can be too personal and I admit my mistake/fault at that. As the US did not want to get involved in another World War, Japan did force their hand on the pacific front. I do think that the US was definitely aware in some extents of the horrors in Europe, being that families of the Jews in Europe (now living in the US) had written to FDR pleading to let their relatives in and then being denied entry. They had their hands tied, and I wonder if that is something similar with what is going on in the Ukraine. My political science professor gave a theory on just why Putin started to invade now–one of which he wants to leave his legacy since he could be running out of time. Part of me wonders if he will expand beyond the Ukraine, all with the potential to be a second Hitler. Only time will tell, I suppose.
As for your family, I am so sorry. It is a hard feeling to stomach when we do not know exactly what our distant relatives had endured, and especially when we do not know how. The uncertainty is saddening. I wish we could trace back our origins with more certainty, with more information than we have now so we could fill in those gaps and to make certain guesses about what happened in our family, and how that potentially impacted our bloodline.
I am so very sorry that your grandfather and family suffered so. It is a traumatic legacy for all of you.
I suppose we really can’t see history–until it is history. Of course, the US and allies had some knowledge of what was going on–documents and photos were smuggled out. There’s a Hungarian movie, Son of Saul, which portrays some of that. (It’s an excellent, but difficult movie to watch.)
As for ancestry–yes, it would be nice to know, but I’m not sure the records exist. And now with the war, even less likely. My older child and I talk about getting Henry Louis Gates on it. 😏
A poignant poem and (sadly) timely too.JIM
Thank you very much. It is tragic.
The words, the thoughts, the feelings, brilliant. I can feel so much emotion in this poem.
Thank you so much.
A sadly haunting poem Meril. Children will often revert to imagination when reality is too hard to deal with. Well done!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Dwight.
You are welcome!
A superb feat of memory – the haunting poem excellent first time round and so relevant today, especially as seen through the dreams of a child. The irony you mention is chilling
Thank you so much, Derrick.
Yes, it is chilling. And I recall your friend from the Kindertransport. . .
Thank you for that, Merril – of course you would not forget
It is so disturbing to witness history repeating itself in this way…
I agree, Ingrid. It certainly is.
Thank you very much. 💙
Not an easy picture to paint, or easy emotions to feel, or make your readers feel, yet you do so beautifully here. How does the soul come through such things and stay even partly what it was? yet you provide a continuum which begins and ends in starry simplicity.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful words.
As Lucy said, reading your poem I could not help but connect to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear … my heart aches remembering … still aches today for the millions suffering … forced from their homeland, their homes, families. Yours is an immensely impactful poem, dear Merril.
Thank you so very much, Helen.
Merril, I am glad you mentioned the “Holocaust Remembrance Day”. It was on my mind. Also your write reminds me of how often I think of those I will never see again, they moved or I did or something. Every now and then I think of a young lady in my younger days, she lived our apartments but moved away to Isarael in the early 70’s.
I don’t remember her name but do remember out landlady’s name, Mrs. Freelove. 🙂
I’m pleased my poem sent you pondering, Jim.
I’m glad you revived your Poem. Seems as the human race is reluctant to change. In equalities aren’t being equaled, sort of like a revolving door. Now the white supremacists would like their ideas foremost, have given those who would bring equality with science and science as promoting a BAD MADE UP WORDED PHRASE, Critical Race Therory. Yes, even hide it from kids in schools and ban truthful books on what their bias deplores.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, there are awful people who rely on ignorance and buzz words to rile up their supporters. Critical Race Theory is a real thing. However, it is a theory taught in graduate level classes and law school, not in public school classes. And the banning books stuff–UGHHHH. Yes, we are definitely seeing a rise in right-wing nationalism and authoritarianism.
I love how you bring us the hope that those memories of how it was before may be something for a child to live with in the future… those memories of how it can be.
Thank you so much, Björn.
Irony is a stinging humour. I see it in your poem. Still, your added thoughts, bring it home.
I see the child’s wishes, now that she has grown, have taken root and grow.
Unfortunately someone full of hate and disgust, an ill gruesome troll, now is pulling the plants out by their roots.
Is there no end to hate, vile and ugly thoughts and feelings?
Merril, just a couple of hours ago, some guy was screaming hate at his … girlfriend/wife/?
In his hate he kicked out the picture window of our main door.
A senseless destruction. A microcosm of all wars and prejudices and hates.
We will have to pay for the new window. All humanity pays for senseless war crimes.
Thank you for your comments, Resa. Yes, all humanity does pay.
Someone kicked out your picture window?? Yikes. I’m glad you’re safe, but what a pain (no pun intended) to have to deal with and pay for that.
Thank you, Merril!
Well, the window is replaced now.
It was a pun, (no pain intended.) lol
I’m glad it’s been replaced. 😊
Merril, this really tugs at heart. So sad and moving… expressed beautifully.
Thank you very much, Punam. 💙
Always a pleasure, Merril. 💙