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BETH AHABAH VOICES: KAREN OLSHANSKY: RENEWAL AFTER RETIREMENT

01/19/2017 03:15:32 PM

Jan19

After retirement, I revived a passion that had been dormant for the 35 years that I practiced clinical social work. I have always loved poetry, and had even tried writing some poems in my high school and college years and then again as a young mother. With the hectic responsibilities of motherhood, going back to school to pursue an MSW degree, and building a practice, my earlier interest in poetry became buried under the more pressing (although very rewarding and pleasurable) activities of professional and family life.

For the past 5 years, since my retirement from clinical social work, I have had the time and space to experiment with my “inner poet.” I have taken several poetry classes and belong to a writers group that I meet with once a month.

It has been so much fun to enter this new arena, to try to grow a skill that I had thought about but have never had the energy (or courage) to embrace during the years I was working. I have been able to use my brain in new ways (always a good thing as we age!) and to engage in something entirely different. The most fun though has been meeting new people who share my interest, folks that I may have never encountered before.

It has been quite humbling to try something new, to share poems that are less than perfect, and yet that are a part of my journey. This opportunity for expression, has been for me, a way of connecting with the universe and with others. A way to connect emotionally and sometimes spiritually through the written word. This creates an intimacy, a way for me to not only be present more deeply for myself, but with others as well.

So in the spirit of connection, and of courage, I offer you, my Beth Ahabah community, two poems that I have written, both of which are related to the Holocaust. I wrote one after a trip to Eastern Europe and had an opportunity in Budapest to see a memorial for the Hungarian Jews that were murdered by the Arrow Cross soldiers in advance of the Nazi invasion.

The second poem was written in memory of Eli Wiesel.

The Red Danube: Budapest 1944-1945

Here on the banks of the Danube lie:

 

Shoes that waltzed,

that ran after children,

trudged through mud,

walked to work,

hurried to the store.

Shoes that tapped

on the floor of a concert hall,

jumped rope, or

stood on tiptoe to kiss a beau.

 

Here on the banks of the Danube lie:

 

Loafers,

Wing Tips,

Saddle shoes, Sandals,

Slippers and Sling backs.

Work boots,

Mary Janes,

Pumps,

Oxfords and Espadrilles.

 

Here on the banks of the Danube:

 

The river of musicians,

artists, and lovers,

lie shoes,

bereft of their owners,

 

who collapsed into the river turned red

by the shots of bullets

that killed countless souls,

all for the sin of being born

under the star of David.

 

To The Memory of the Victims who were shot into the Danube by the Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45.


A-7713

 

My arm displays black markings,

A-7713,

a tattoo that will never erase.

These numbers don’t name me.

I am Elie.

 

I have thoughts, feelings, a family.

I, on the precipice of manhood,

am driven down crevices

of unspeakable horrors.

I am whipped to shreds,

scarred by craven men

infected by a vile virus.

 

My life, once full of promises,

now broken, incinerated

by a suffocating ride in a crammed

cattle car to a destination

of deprivation, humiliation, death.

 

In narrow bunks infested with vermin

my starving body clings to a slim

shimmer of a Sunday reminiscence:

a placid walk,

playing stickball,

studying books

of my mysterious God.

 

I am an orphan of life,

the sins of my captors

an attempted theft.

 

and yet -and yet -and yet

 

I will give the world my greatest gift.

I will be a witness.

I will never forget.

I am Elie Wiesel.

 

In memory of Elie Wiesel

1928-2016

Editor’s Note:

This is part of a new series written by and about the members of Beth Ahabah. If you would like to submit an article about a friend or family member at Beth Ahabah, or your own adventures, avocations or interesting career, please contact Lori Allen in the Temple office at l.allen@bethahabah.org.

Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779