Dealing the cards

I:  Mizinek*

fifteen years after father limped down Flinders Lane
and mother drank tea laced with bromide in Bergen Belsen
I was born, an accident of old age
Why bring children into such a world?

I was a good girl then
my parents’ little miracle
their heart and soul and hope


II:  Wrestling ghosts

On Saturdays they played Polish rummy
crammed around the kitchen table in Caulfield
with Gdale and Genia, Luba and Losha

the women smoked Craven A’s
the men ate greasy herring on rye
sipping whisky before they dealt

kids would wrestle in the lounge room
evil Dr Schnitzelbaum body-slammed Lewin the Jew
and I was always referee – 1,2,3, you’re out!

mother’s ghosts cheered from the sidelines
hidden behind the cigarette haze
no one ever saw them, except me

I resurrected them from the dead
their faces locked away
behind mother’s eyes

and I fell into her world
wanting to be the air
that filled her every breath


 III:  Shock

In this house, in my room
where I dreamed for years
unspoken words piled up

father sat on the floor
playing Go Fish with me
his crooked leg outstretched

while electrodes forced the sun
of pre-warPolandback inside my mother’s head
did she see a carp swimming in the tub

her own mother chopping off its head
mincing the flesh for gefilte fish
served with a slice of carrot for Shabbat?

or did the shock squeeze the darkness out of her
my faceless relatives forced to move on
and search for shelter in another haunted mind?

unspoken words piled up between us
silent like murdered bodies
the what-we-should-have-saids

the if-only

* the youngest child (Yiddish)

Leah Kaminsky

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