Saturday, February 02, 2013
Except For That by Rachel Goldstein
Copyright 2013 © by Rachel Goldstein
Cervena Barva Press
Softbound, 33 pages, $8
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
From her bio on the back cover we learn that Rachel Goldstein is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She was born in Germany in 1946 in a displaced person’s hospital. At the age of two she moved to La Paz, Bolivia with her parents. Five years later, her family emigrated to Montreal, Canada where she completed her education.
I once sat on the Board of Trustees of the Zamir Chorale of Boston with Ms. Goldstein and never knew this information. However, I was impressed enough with her poetry to publish one of her poems in my online journal, Muddy River Poetry Review.
In this volume of poetry, which lives up to my high regard for work, Goldstein presents her parents’ story. Many of the poems, are sparse, direct and harsh. They reveal truths that some still deny, but cannot be denied when you read realities from survivors and their children. In House of Mercy we encounter the realism of dead children.
Children burn. We go on
without them – ashes, ashes.
The neighbors hack and sing:
Kill and clean
til your work
is done. Soon
will be gone
A blue sky cobbles sorrow.
A boy tucks into a nun’s
old habit, keeps his heart
from freezing in the House
of Mercy. There is no mercy.
Certainly during World War II Jews under nazi rule knew no mercy. They died in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belson, Treblinka and other camps. She also writes about places wiped out, people murdered.
First Cousins, Once Removed
Yankush, Leah, Salek! See them
dancing beside the river. Here
the flour mill was once enough
for them. The willow still stand
faithful in leafy gowns.
Do not throw off their green
voices, the circle of voices ringing
in Shreniava.* There is nothing
here. Everything they know is here.
*my grandparents’ summer gather
place for all the young cousins
In another poem she writes For an Extra Piece of Bread, a recurrent theme in Holocaust poetry because a slice of bread – or even a piece of a slice – was a very valuable commodity, sometimes even keeping someone alive for a day or two, or if lucky longer.
For an Extra Piece of Bread
The prisoners were asked to name
the twelve sons of Jacob. One man
tried and tried, was beaten to the ground.
The commandant’s wife came by.
All prisoners were ordered
to look away. My father did not.
He saw how she stood, legs apart,
ten little fox heads, open mouthed,
dead, smothering her breasts.
Some of these poems are before the war, some during and others post World War II yet each poem is poignant, piercing and a valuable contribution to the still growing oeuvre of Holocaust literature. I found this volume of poetry a superb addition to my collection of Jewish and Holocaust poetics. I think every reader will find this volume both accessible
and valuable to own.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8