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The Toss

I see a knife-grinder
On his dusty, stationary bicycle,
A black Star of David
Sprayed over a door,
As you urge me
Into the rationed light,
The crumbling pearl-grey
Of the ghetto.
All at once, the Roman spring,
With its galaxy of columns
And daisies,
Becomes the autumn of families
Plummeting from windows,
The desecrated autumn
Your mother tossed you,
Small bundle,
To a passerby.
Like this, you demonstrate
With a parcel.

But what can't be mimed
Is the look they shared,
The look that let you live;
Her toss that had to be
Quick, quick,
Before the cat-pounce Nazis came--
Out the shutters
Into the samaritan's intrepid arms:
Something unerring
Passing through the air
Of an iron universe--

As the knife-grinder pedals and pedals,
You whisper: I know nothing
Of what became of her.


Perhaps she soothed a boy
Born in the Lager,
Listless, mute, whose Lilliputian arm
Bore the tattoo of Auschwitz.
She would have coaxed him
To lift his intransigent eyes,
Knowing you might also be
Somewhere among the living.

And against the jackboot, the demolition,
For as long as she was able, she

-- Cyrus Cassells

Originally published in the December 1993/ January 1994 issue of Boston Review



Copyright Boston Review, 1993–2005. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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