Aztlán

Liteh, Poylen, Galitsia,
Vays-Rusland, Bukovina:
You were our home.

A thousand years ago–
do you remember?–
another exodus,
just one of many,
brought us to you.

Fleeing crusaders’ knives,
a continent in arms against our children,
we followed the morning sun
into the east
and out from Ashkenaz.

And we were welcomed,
though it’s hard to think of now.
You said to us
“Come, stay a while,
put down your loads
til the next exodus.”

I don’t think we knew
we’d stay so long,
or we might have changed our name
from “Ashkenazi”.

I’m sure we didn’t know
we’d leave so quickly,
when we finally did.
But then,
you never really know
how things will end.

We grew together.
Childhood is fuzzy,
but I think I can recall:
We ate each other’s foods
and mixed our tongues.
We married, sometimes,
and later said we hadn’t.

If we were foreigners–
and we always were,
deep down inside–
we were not strangers.
Neighbors who prayed
“Next year, far away,”
but neighbors nonetheless,
at least this year.

And next year followed next
for centuries.
And “far away” did not get any closer.
And some of us began to hope,
if not to really think,
that we might stay,
that we could build our homes
instead of pitching tents.

So some of us
and some of you
joined hands and made a pact
to change this land
into the kind of place
where we might want to stay.

We changed the world, together.

But we stepped over a line.
This part is easier to remember:
We weren’t good neighbors
like before
when we kept to ourselves.

We got too involved
in your affairs,
and you started,
slowly perhaps, but you started,
to push us out.

And that push spread west
only to push back east.
Ashkenaz–
which,
in our absence,
had been reborn
as Daytshland–
followed our exodus
after a thousand years.

And
though it took some time for us to leave,
and
though we were always foreigners,
that was the day we stopped being neighbors
and became strangers.

You stopped being home
not at Auschwitz
nor at the ports of Haifa and New York.
But at Babi Yar,
where we knew,
and you did too,
that we were strangers again.

Liteh, Poylen, Galitsia,
Vays-Rusland, Bukovina:
You were our home.
Does anyone remember?

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One Response to Aztlán

  1. Nancy Cohen says:

    A REALLY INTENSE AND POWERFUL POEM! GLAD IT IS IN ENGLISH AND THAT I CAN READ IT

    On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:58 AM, Deranged and Dangerous wrote:

    > Anschel Schaffer-Cohen posted: “Liteh, Poylen, Galitsia, Vays-Rusland, > Bukovina: You were our home. A thousand years ago– do you remember?– > another exodus, just one of many, brought us to you. Fleeing crusaders’ > knives, a continent in arms against our children, we followed the morni” >

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