Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: A Poetic “Duet”

On Friday, May 2, The Forward‘s Arty Semite blog published my poem “Mount Zion.” And on Friday, May 9, my poem “September 1, 1946” appeared on the same.

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.

My great-grandmother, who is the woman at the center of "September 1, 1946," along with her grown-up "baby grandson" and HIS first baby--me.
My great-grandmother, who is the woman at the center of “September 1, 1946,” along with her grown-up “baby grandson” and HIS first baby–me.

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 light,
The lovely light,
Is steadfast and so incredibly warm.

3 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: A Poetic “Duet”

  1. Clive Collins says:

    “The lovely light”, a lovely line, a lovely piece.

  2. Cherri says:

    Beautiful! Just beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Erika Dreifus says:

    Thank you both so much! @Clive–I quite agree!

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