Mizmor L'David Anthology 


Poetica Magazine
                                           Contemporary Jewish Writing

Steven Levi is a writer and historian living in Alaska. His father was a Holocaust refugee from Torino, Italy. “The Shriek of the Garden Gate” is Steven’s 1980 visit to the house his father fled in 1939. His father’s autobiography is available on Amazon. 

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Steven Levi

The garden gate shrieks in agony

from the years of disuse and neglect.

The hinges groan as the fingers

of Father Time loosen their grasp of rust

and allow the gate to swing open.

Inside, between two trees, sterile with age,

the garden has become a jungle of domesticated

plants grown wild, a beast of brown and green,

devouring the gentle terraces. These terraces

were the anguish of a generation of artists,

sculptors of living greenery.

This was the garden of my family, a garden of repose

in downtown Torino. Here birds flitted from tree

to tree to tree, where fruit hung heavy, where

the walls of stone bathed in the warmth

of the Mediterranean sun.

Then, the tramp of the Black Shirts filled the

garden. Eyes peered over the stone wall.

Ears listened at the cracks. The chanting in the

streets drowned the benedictions in Hebrew.

Blood seeped through these walls, soaking into

this garden of repose. It poisoned the soil.

The fig trees died. The nightingales fled

leaving only the jays and sparrows to rustle

about in the weeds. The laughter of children

died and Hebrew was merely a distant echo,

whispering from the crumbling mortar.

. . . and one is left to ponder whether

the shriek of the hinges is an epitaph

of the past

or a warning for

the future.