Monday, May 31, 2010


[my mother, right, in Warsaw, summer 1939]


“I saw Babcia in a dream,” my mother told me.
“She stood in the kitchen and said,
Make a wish – because I have
connections everywhere.”

But my mother had forgotten
all her wishes, like a flustered little girl.
The temptation, to believe our dead
have connections everywhere,

and could pull some cosmic strings.
Yet those strings had already been pulled
when I had the mother I had.
Our first Thanksgiving in
Los Angeles,

she divided one turkey TV dinner,
choosing the smaller portion, as always,
for herself. She said, The only real
poverty is here – and touched her head.

And the words we didn't say, 
like the wine we didn’t have,
whispered we were queens; 
we were millionaires.

~ Oriana


The date of the photo makes me shudder: summer, 1939: the wide, calm streets, the perfect weather. 



The lines I liked best in your Babcia poem, "Connections," are:

we gave thanks for what we already had:
that which fits in the small
suitcase of the infinite.


Hyacinth is referring to an earlier version, which had this stanza:

Then in the tongues of men and angels
we gave thanks for the riches
we already had: that which fits
in the small suitcase of the infinite.


I decided that stanza was "commentary."



1939 gives me shudders too. I was boarded with a German hausfrau and her granddaughter, Hymie, in Lebanon, Conn.

She was very good to me, fixed me lots of creamed spinach which I loathed and now would really appreciate. She boasted a lot about Hitler and all he was doing for Germany. No one knew about the death camps then - how innocent we were in that idyllic countryside. I'm sure she was Jewish. Ironic.


Thank you! Love your use of "Babcia" -- it's a very soft word, and a sweet endearment; sweeter, I'd say, than all kinds of variations on Mama.


  1. The next to the last stanza is perfect, brings back my childhood and the lives of those I lived among, the refugees and DPs in Chicago.

    Here's a piece of a poem I wrote about that time:

    When I ask my mother now
    what we had when we came,
    she shrugs and starts the list:
    some plates, a wooden comb,
    some barley bread, a crucifix.

    We were as poor as mud,
    she says,and prayed for little:
    to find a sister she lost,
    to work,to forget our dead,
    to live without anger or fear.

  2. Thank you.

    I love the images in your poem. A wooden comb! I don't think I ever saw one . . . A wonderful detail. And "we were as poor as mud" -- and the surprise of "to forget our dead." Or perhaps to remember them only as happy, in their happy moments. Not to drink so much tragedy, the worst kind of alcohol.