Saturday, February 02, 2013

Except For That by Rachel Goldstein

Copyright 2013 © by Rachel Goldstein

Cervena Barva Press

Somerville, Massachusetts

Softbound, 33 pages, $8

ISBN: 978-0-9883713-1-6

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

the roaches

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

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