Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

Visiting the Iniquity Upon the Children, 

Unto the Third and Fourth Generation of Them

          (in memory of Anita Silverman)


 by Maya Bernstein


When he was a boy, my husband told me,

he devoured pears: skin, flesh, core, seeds.

But not the stems, which he brought to his mother

(whose leg was left mangled by polio in a DP camp

in Vienna, 1949) as a gift. He believed they delighted her.

But it was he who delighted her, her hungry son.

              I think I hear her coming now!


She was two when they left Debrecen by foot

on Passover night. Her mother drugged her

so she wouldn’t ask the Four Questions. Her mother

who had survived with Christian papers in a Beauty Parlor

in Budapest, cutting the German soldiers’ beards, dancing

with the German soldiers’ groping hands, clopping feet.

They assumed her cheeks were wet with pleasure

but her tears were for Tokaj, for yellow muscats, for her mother

             I think I hear her coming now!


rotten on the vine. A boy, he didn’t understand.

But knew enough to try to make his mother glad.

He offered her his stems and she held out her hand,

again, again, wove stem with stem until they were the length

of her lame leg. She leaned on that wobbly cane. She kept

taking step after step after step.

             I think I hear her coming now!




...