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I Was Reborn

A poem

I did not appear
from sea-foam
like Venus.
I was born in a hot cauldron
in the pine woods
near Vilnius.

Lithuanian witches
had been mixing the potion
mix of sweat, blood, tubercular phlegm
from the lungs of young poets and artists,
coal dust from chimneys
in medieval cobblestoned streets,
pigeon feathers and cat fur.

Also, morning dew
from the fields of linen and buckwheat,
fragrant berries from wild raspberry bushes,
chanterelles and green velvet moss
warm from late summer sun
in Lithuanian forests.

Then I was murdered together
with grandmother Frieda and uncle Ruvim,
Frieda’s one-hundred-and-two-year-old mother,
my mother’s parents, Liba and Moshe,
her twenty-two-year-old baby brother Leibale—Leo
a blond boy with gentle green eyes,
her first love, the handsome socialist Arye,
six-year-old Sara,
shot in the arms of aunt Alta
who would not give her away,
Mother’s twelve-year-old cousin
whose name I do not recall,
her picture with a rag doll
hanging in her right hand
I still have in a family album.

I was reborn
when my parents met in 1947;
my beautiful mother was looking
at a pinstripe gabardine jacket
in the window of a resale shop
on Komjaunimo.
She and Father first met during the war
some place between Kursk and Oriol
in the 16th Artillery division.
I was reborn
when they took a photo
with me at two weeks of age;
they were sitting on the grass
in the Zhalgirio Park,
Mother smiling in her white dress.
I was reborn
when she cooked and baked with her sisters
to celebrate Passover
when they sang “Katyusha”
and painted each other’s nails red.

My father was wounded several times;
fragments of the bullets
remained in his back,
under the skin,
for the rest of his life
a reminder of five years in the front
where he knew
what he fought against
and did not always know
what for.
I was reborn
when my son turned seventeen
he tried on his grandfather’s coat
the old tweed overcoat
fit him just so
his shoulders are the same width as my father’s.


 © 2014 by the author. This poem was included in her collection of poems Vilnius Diary.