Initially, I thought that I might share both poems with you. A pair.
But then, something better came along. And I mean that quite literally.
Last Friday, I shared the link to “September 1, 1946”–which uses W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” to jump-start a poem about my father’s maternal grandmother–with some family and friends.
Within hours, one member of that community–Jon Racherbaumer–posted a poem in response. It represents an effort, in Jon’s words, to express “how I imagine you imagining as you wrote.”
After reading both my poem and Jon’s, my friend and poetry teacher Sage Cohen commented, “What a duet!” And that’s how I hope you may also see them.
Here, again, is “September 1, 1946.” I hope that you’ll read it, and then return here for “Erika’s Vision,” re-posted here with Jon’s permission.
by Jon Racherbaumer
Three generations hence does not
Dilute the dread and dissolution of a War that was
And was not for me.
Nor does it dilute the bloodline that threads through me
As the woman I know and did not know
Moves as processionals move across my imagination’s transom.
I see her now as I see myself in my morning mirror.
I see when and where she was docked and detained,
Far from all she knew and loved and lost…
Except for one—
A daughter, now eight years and a million memories older,
Eight years, bereft and unsponsored, her arms, outreaching…
I also see Ellis Island,
Waters littoral with tears and
Its skyline ready for sunlight and nightlights and the unbidden.
And finally, finally, I feel the surge of the South Ferry,
Cutting across waters, dark and cold and calm.
Finally, finally, I see the faces of the woman I know and don’t know
And I see her daughter arm-and-arm next to her,
Cool September breezes gently mussing their hair.
I see their faces, beatific, radiant, and hopeful.
I see them as I see myself.
I see them surging now.
They are cutting through the dusk,
Toward where a husband and son-in-law and grandson wait,
Where bloodlines meet and merge, and
Where strangers are strangers no more,
Where angels have tread and
The lovely light,
Is steadfast and so incredibly warm.