My grandparents left me stillness— a quiet in the center of whorl.
The moment after the train tears through.
Faith: A feather settling into wing: Something secret in the seams.
They blew the dust into my hair and asked “Du veist ver du bist?”1
My bubbas and zaydehs knew the dark side of the turned cheek.
Still they waved their arms at candlelight —“Vus vilst Du?”2 they begged.
They waved their hands, blades that shaved air into form.
Waved me closer: “Vus vilst du?”— Kissed me, each kiss a tragedy.
Pesseleh, Pesseleh, they called me, their mothers, their sisters . . .
Into the folds of taleism, the fold of my neck they called—
From the opening of a wound,
flora of their open hearts, hearts brimming black holes,
never full enough, never emptied.
1. “Du veist ver du bist?”: (Yiddish) Do you know who you are?
2. “Vus Vilst Du”:(Yiddish) What do you want?
An earlier version of this poem was first published in Prism: A Holocaust Journal 2011.
Pessie (Sherry) Horowitz was born in Canada to offspring of Holocaust survivors. At the age of nine, she immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, in an environment “steeped in traditional Hasidic Orthodoxy with strong post-Holocaust sensitivities.” She received her MFA in Poetry at New England College through which she received the Joel Oppenheim Scholarship Award. You can find her poems and book reviews in magazines such as Jewish Action, Innisfree, Poetry Journal, Poems Niederngasse, Prism: A Holocaust Journal, Midstream, Tygerburning, Poetry International/Web del Sol Review, A Quest for God Anthology (UK) and OVS Magazine. Most recently her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Poetry Prize. She lives in Monsey, New York, with her family.