My grandfather wouldn’t speak
of fires burning in the streets,
his birthplace torched,
ditches filled with lifeless hands
that once fingered strings of violins
or fringes of a prayer shawl.
Pogrom was a word I never heard
him use. I never heard him say
his sister’s name. He never spoke
of who’d been left behind, who failed
to make it out in time. He wouldn’t talk
about the boat—passage or arrival.
Said nothing of his nights spent calling
back what he’d push away at dawn.
When he’d bend to kiss my face,
I smelled smoke on his skin, human
ash. His love for me felt like river water
restless for the sea. I’m haunted by
what I was afraid to ask, by what
he wouldn’t say.