34 years later Grandma

 I stand before your house

 Vulitsa Pervoe Maya

 Your house is no more


There it is

A parking lot


The orchard you told me about

The historian knew where from your description

I carried it with me all these years



I came in May

The trees were in bloom

It was quite pretty


The shul and your stone house were no more

all that remained a marker of the uprising

the first one in Europe

if Cholawski is to be believed


it started at your house

next to the shul with the machinegun

fun Ezrat Nashim


did you know?

did it make you proud?

I can’t remember you mentioning it

I have to think you didn’t know


did you know that your people deported and shot the iniquitous

before they were killed?


Maybe our communist cousins knew?

There is only one surviving, I’ll have to ask


But years later, years before this year

Four years before you died

I came to know you


Twisted, gnarled from the years

of poverty

of dragging a half-dead husband

and two boys

through the Great Depression

always one step ahead of the landlord

refusing to give up your status as a boss

of a shitty little candy store

that always went under


even when the rebbe offered to clout you into an ILGWU shop

you were too proud, too vain, too stupid

the daughter of a furrier

in a prosperous little town

owned by the Radziwills

your older sister, The rich lady of Nesvizh


The death of your family back home

The death of your civilization back home


I knew you

leyenung di Forverts

You and your language not much longer

died 1983

I was a youth


You were twisted by the slow death of your husband, your poverty, the endless days and nights of work and worry

the genocide

the end of your family

the end of your civilization

your life ended at 51

what more was there to live for?


by 83 you were crazy, twisted, gnarled

like an old tree

It did not seem you understood what came after

Could anyone?


you were full of hate

even towards those close to you

I used to dread coming home

to have to listen to you


But now

knowing that the rebellions started from your house

knowing that the comrades renamed your street for the First of May

and the cross-street for Comrade Liebknecht, the German martyr

to our cause

brings me a sort of happiness


Lenin stands around the corner

The marq empty now


Would you be happy if you knew?

Would Dad?