First Generation

We wanted our parents to be bland,
to fade into the flocked wallpaper.
We wanted our parents
to pay less attention to us.
We wanted our mothers
not to sew our clothes and not
clutch us as we crossed the street.
We wanted our fathers
to be like other dads
and booze with men in hotel bars.

Instead our fathers
marked long hours
in greengrocer shops,
coming home only when
their sweat and the smell
of ripe rotting fruit
combined into a certain scent.
On the rare occasion
they closed the shop,
they would sit in the kitchen
surrounded by the family,
playing cards, drinking coffee,
below whirring ceiling fans.

We children were not romantic about Europe
that had given our parents accents,
brown bread reeking of garlic,
dark passionate women and sad quiet men.

Susan Sklan, a social worker, is an Australiau now living in the Boston area. Her father was a Holocaust survivor. Her poetry has appeared in The Journal ol’ Progressive Human Services, The Centennial Review, Folio, Kalliope, Pleiades, and elsewhere.