September 4, 2009

From the 2009 qarrtsiluni chapbook contest finalist ashes, ashes, by Susanna Rich

My father wouldn’t lead me down the aisle:
you were a Jew
and hadn’t asked him —
cognac to cognac — for my hand.

Good Catholic Hungarian girls marry
Royal Austro-Hungarian Empire types,
have children to speak
Hungarian for Grandpa’s dollars.

For years my father came to brag
about the war: ministering to German
soldiers; his chocolates, Gillettes,
and stockings for their wives.

He brought wine from Polish vineyards
I feared
unspeakably fertilized —
some sympathetic magic I couldn’t drink.

Don’t let them lie to you, he spoke
like a spell over my Holocaust books,
Catholic priests, good people were killed
more than Jews —

Jewish bankers, Jewish doctors,
Jewish control of the media…

I asked him not to.
Robbed of his conjugating adjective,

he can’t speak.
He holds vigil by our bedroom window,
his eye filling the pane like frost,
assuring himself no children will mix

his blood with the Jews’.
In spring I gather flowered Seder plates
from Fortunoff’s, saffron tablecloth,
new five-fingered vase.

I bury our pots in the garden,
as your mother once did,
to purify them,
so we can all eat.

Download the podcast

“Passover” originally appeared in Visions: International 59 (1999). It was reprinted in Writers at the Water’s Edge (Ocean Grove: Tri-Muse, 2003) and in Dovetail: A Journal By and For Jewish/Christian Families (May/June 2003). All rights reverted to author.

Susanna Rich is a 2009 Emmy Award nominee for the poetry she wrote and voice-overed for Craig Lindvahl’s documentary Cobb Field. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Television Daddy and The Drive Home; the 2008 Featured Poet of Darkling Literary Magazine; and a Fulbright Fellow in Creative Writing. An internationally published poet and prose writer, Susanna tours the one-woman audience-interactive poetry experience Television Daddy, and is in production for The Drive Home (opening in 2010). Her books and DVDs are available at her website.

  1. September 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Thank you so much for your wonderful website, and for including me. Susanna

  2. September 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Oh, wonderful poem! I love

    Robbed of his conjugating adjective,

    he can’t speak.

    • September 7, 2009 at 8:20 am

      Thank you, Dale! So good to resonate with readers!

  3. Judith Terzi
    October 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Very powerful piece, Susanna.I like the transition from the harsh and racist words of your father to Passover and spring.

  4. October 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks, Judith! You give me a new sense of my poem.

  5. PC
    December 11, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Thank you for sharing this. It means a lot to me to have read it.

  1. September 10, 2009 at 6:19 pm
  2. November 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: