Monday 19 November 2018

Book about my relatives and Nov 20 anniversary of deportation from France

I'm doing a book for children and young people about the 'disappearance' of my father's uncles and aunts in World War Two. My father never knew what happened to them, but I've pieced it together. People who've read my memoir, 'So They Call You Pisher!' will know the story but that's too difficult for most children to read.

So, now I'm doing this book with Walker Books and it's a mix of prose and poetry with pictures and maps. I felt that it needed one more poem and so last week I wrote this as if I'm talking to my father's uncle Oscar 'Jeschie' Rosen. A couple of weeks ago I posted up a picture on Facebook of me at the Memorial in Paris where his and his wife's name (Rachel) are engraved. Tomorrow (November 20) I'll be there to commemorate the departure of Convoy 62 from Paris Bobigny Station to Auschwitz, which was the town where he was born. They were within just a few days of being saved by an Italian guy (Angelo Donati) who had requisitioned boats from Nice to North Africa. Oscar was a clock- and watch-mender. I'll be able to read out his and his wife's name and say a few words.

What did you think,
as you and Rachel
sat on the floor of the cattle truck
as it left Paris?

Did you think of the watches
and clocks you had mended ?

Did you think of the tiny springs
and wheels?
You with your magnifying glass
in your eye poring over the works
so that a Monsieur or a Madame
could tell the time,
correct to the exact second?

Did you think of the smell of the sea
and the push of a boat against
the waves?
How you and Rachel
would stand on the deck
the wind in your faces
as you sailed away?

Did you look
through the gaps in the slats
on the side of the truck?

Did you see farmers in fields?
Women selling clothes in a market?

Did you call out?
Did you push your hands through the gaps?

Did the night come creeping in?
Did you see a light from a window
where people sat and
ate their evening meal?

Did you see in the dark
horror on Rachel's face?
Did she see horror on yours?

Did you shut her eyes?
Did she shut yours?
Thinking of children
who shut their eyes to make
the world go away?

And then
behind your eyelids
did you think of the cattle
that had once stood in the truck
as they were taken away
to the slaughter-house?