Barbara Krasner

MAÑANA

The ship pulls into Havana harbor
as the sky brightens from purple to pink.
Even at 4 a.m., my mother puts on her makeup
And my little sister dresses in her best blouse and skirt.
We have finally arrived and I swallow hard.
I wonder how my father prepares to see us.
I imagine him combing a bit of pomade into his unruly hair –
What used to be his hair before Buchenwald.
But he’ll smack his cheeks after shaving,
just as he’s always done
and adjust the knot in his tie.
He’ll come, grinning, and kiss my mother
and scoop up Ruthie
and shake my hand and say,
“You’ve been a good little man.”
We have our landing cards, our bags are packed.
We line up with the other passengers.
My father told me to take care of everyone,
and I’ve tried, but I’m still only eleven
and haven’t been bar mitzvah’d so I’m not yet a man.
Scores of Cuban police board the ship.
Mumbles pass through us.
They’re not letting us off.
My mother’s face turns as white as lace curtains
and I want to fold my no-good landing card
into accordion folds to fan her.
She’s not used to the tropical heat.
Hours pass and we’re still standing.
My legs are pins and needles
from all this waiting.
I am tired from shaking them awake.
Small boats approach our ship,
Men throw bananas to us for money.
Rowboats approach with men in suits and I
search
and
search.
Father!
And I want to jump into his arms
But I’m seventy-five feet in the air.
I think his mouth is open, but I can’t hear.
Father, get us off this boat – we all need you.
But the police force us back and say, “Mañana, mañana.”
Every day my father comes on his little boat
but he grows fainter and smaller.

 

THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST

We expected people to be friendly. They were not.
They took my German shepherd and would not give him back.
Then I knew we were in trouble
And I had no dog to protect me in the street.
They took my German shepherd and would not give him back.
We had to hand over our radio, photographs, and clothes.
And I had no dog to protect me in the street
Or at school when I cast out of first grade for being a Jew.
We had to hand over our radio, photographs, and clothes.
Nothing left to pack when I left Prague for Plzen.
School didn’t matter – I was cast out of first grade for being a Jew.
I didn’t know how to read or write for twelve years.
Nothing left to pack when I left Prague for Plzen.
My mother and little brother stayed with friends in Prague.
I didn’t know how to read or write for twelve years.
Terezín got in the way.
My mother and little brother stayed with friends in Prague.
We reunited in ’42 in Terezín.
Terezín got in the way
Of all growth and goodness.
We reunited in ’42 in Terezín.
My brother and I stayed in the Kindersheim.
Of all growth and goodness
My memory faded.
My brother and I stayed in the Kindersheim,
While my mother begged the chief SS officer for our lives.
My memory faded
When I heard her say my father was already dead.
While my mother begged the chief SS officer for our lives,
I had my first nervous breakdown.
When I heard her say my father was already dead,
I couldn’t speak.
I had my first nervous breakdown
But it was not my last at Terezín.
I couldn’t speak
Not even when the Russians liberated us.
It was not my last at Terezín,
I still have nightmares after 70 years.
Not even when the Russians liberated us
Could I feel joy.
I still have nightmares after 70 years.
What could I do to survive?
Could I feel joy?
I push my own pain behind me.
What could I do to survive?
I had trouble sleeping.
I expected people to be friendly. They were not.
I became a psychotherapist.

 

FAIRLAWN MANOR

The sloping land of rolling hills, plentiful rivers, and cedar forests
belonged to everyone and everything.
There, the Lenni Lenape built their round houses.
They grew corn, squash and beans in the fields.
They caught silvery, feisty fish in the rivers.
They prospered
until a captain signed an agreement to settle families on this land.
New York trader Arent Schuyler built
his four-storied mansion of imported stones and bricks.
He surrounded the house with wide porches.
He built cabins for his workers.
He planted new trees on the plantation’s wide lawns.
He built a greenhouse to shelter his white African iris and Tahitian gardenias.
He enclosed the land with a rough-hewn cedar fence.
Ladies in fine gowns and gentlemen in satin breeches called upon the Schuylers
at Fairlawn Manor.
Until a worker – a slave
Discovered an unusual stone, heavy and green, in the fields.
He brought it to the trader.
Copper!
Mining began. Schuyler’s wealth grew.
Until cattle hooves and marching troops announced the British.
General Clinton stormed the home for his headquarters.
Metal missiles streamed across the river as battle raged.
Two cannons dragged alongside Fairlawn Manor rutted the planked turnpike.
Cannonballs scarred the second floor walls.
A fire destroyed mining operations.
The copper mines closed.
One Schuyler after another moved away.
Weeds tore up the wide drive that once hosted fine carriages.
Vines covered the main house.
The buildings were torn down.
All was lost.
Until the Roaring ‘20s, when a development company
built tree-lined avenues and boulevards and
large, comfortable homes, brick by brick, slat by slat.
Families moved in from New England and New York,
Germany and England, Ireland and Scotland,
Italy and Japan, and Russia and Poland.
Women chatted on their porches. Children played ball.
They skated and biked in the streets and on the wide sidewalks.
But the land at the bottom of the hill remained vacant.
Townspeople argued.
“Build a school!”
“Build more houses!”
“That land is reserved,” the mayor said.
Soon, a signpost announced Fairlawn Manor Park.
Now mothers and fathers push their young children on the swings.
Older children rush to the silver slide.
They hang upside down from the jungle gym, reaching,
until their fingertips touch the dirt.
Little Leaguers plays their games on the baseball field.
Teenagers shoot hoops on the basketball court. And
the sloping land between two rivers once again
belongs to everyone and everything.
________________________________________________________________________________
Barbara Krasner holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and her poetry has appeared in or is scheduled for publication in NimrodPaterson Literary ReviewLipsPoetica, and Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. She teaches creative writing as an adjunct at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
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About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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