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thirteen kids no mean feat fifteen actually two died young life is hard mouths to feed bodies to clothe feet to shod (hand-me-downs never look good) rising early house is cold furniture bare floorboards creek light the fire ....need the loo shared loo outside stinks inside (freezing in there too) washing to do boil the water scrubadubdub wring them in the mangle
sweating face aching arms chapped hands hang the washing out (let's hope it doesn't rain) dinner to cook skin the rabbit rabbit stew skin the veg - carrots and potatoes in the yard parsley grows grab a handful adds some flavour (along with some salt and pepper) chopping parsley dishevelled lad "wot's that mom?" "it's parsley darlin'" she said off he runs down the shop with a penny to buy some pop (and a couple of lollipops) days pass by drab routine day in day out always the same another rabbit more rabbit stew dishevelled lad there again (watching the skinning)
watches intently his mother works on dishevelled lad knows something's missin' trying to think he goes in the yard sees the herb - it's parsley darlin'! ......picks some sprigs runs into his mom hands her a bunch "don't forget the parsley darlin'" .....don't forget the parsley darlin' darlin'.....
© Sonya Katasheva 2012
Author notes: Based on a true story: my father is the lad in this story and his mother is my grandmother – Rosina (inset at top). My father really thought parsley was called "parsley darlin". They lived in the back-to-back slum houses of Birmingham, UK in the 1930s where the people were very poor and often had very large families. This is my own style – experimenting with arrhythmic timing etc – just fun to write.
Picture of mangle – Public Domain courtesy of http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/pages/mangle.html
lonely, but not alone
the old man sits a lone figure on the pavement cold foot (the other foot gone) aching bum he doesn't care busy street cars dash by engines roaring buses fume people cough boots and shoes pass by aching heart he doesn't care voluptuous shops shoppers scurry hurry past cashpoint queue coffee aromas bacon smells aching stomach he doesn't care
he stares ahead vacant eyes fingers numb his mind elsewhere not there in civvy street but back in combat with his comrades son, husband, father, brother once he was all these but now alone - or is he? ....a small girl casts back a glance he's lonely, yet not alone he captivates her vibrant heart her need to know his life, his story if only he knew he would tell to be cherished - he's lonely, but not alone. unconditioned powerless child follows her mother to the next location of comfort and wealth and self-identity in need of education - he's lonely, and still alone, but not alone.
© Sonya Katasheva 2012 Image Courtesy of DeviantArt http://browse.deviantart.com
AUTHOR‟S NOTES – I wrote this in response to a picture prompt for a contest and I was particularly struck by the interest in the small girl.
A CORNISH TALE – Iris and Bet
Two old friends meet up again childhood friends - from Hayle. Fifty years on they enjoy a smoke, a cup of tea ...... and a few chips. In the kitchen sparse and bare they sit and have “a bit o' chat” (and in the lounge I'm a “fly on the wall” ..... can‟t help but listen and watch through the door) “It‟s been so long” Iris said “can‟t believe I‟m back 'ere! Glad we could meet, we had good times, lots of good times didn‟ us?" (she took a drag on her fag) "How‟s awl Wot‟s Name then?” she asked “Who's that then?” said Bet with frown, “Y‟knaw, awl Rainsford Hockin‟?” “Oh he's gone, bin dead a while" “Has he?!" "'Ess. Died from 'flu he did" "Did he?! Oh no, wot‟ shame!" Iris said, "Nice chap he was..... though he never did marry that girl he got into trouble..."
(.......and took another drag on her fag....) Some moments past ...a few more drags, sips of tea, time has no rush at all in a Cornish kitchen where time stands still. "Wan' a foo chips do 'ee my handsome?" (they skin some spuds) "How's awl Wot's Name then?" "Who's that then?" said Bet “Y'knaw - awl Denzil Retallick?” “Oh he's gone, bin dead ten year he have" “Has he?!" said Iris "'Ess, died in 'is sleep he did" "Did he?!" said Iris in disbelief "'Ess" said Bet, "liver gave up – drank too much he did, his poor awl wife knew that” (spuds get chipped) “Well, you never can tell" said Iris, "and wot I say is, right is right, and truth‟ll 'ave it out” (chips go into hot lard) A few more drags and sips and puffs, with minds flashing back to the past..... "I knawed 'is Granfer well" said Iris "he had some funny awl ways mind" Iris chuckled, ".......used to greet me with 'how are 'ee hanging my handsome?'
and me being a girl an' all, well I neverr!" (some more drags and sips, they both had a laugh) “How‟s awl Vyvyan Williams then?" Iris enquired curiously ....a name she did not forget “Oh, she‟s gone” said Bet matter-of-fact "Has she?!" Iris said with dubeity "'Ess. Died six year ago she did" "Did she?! Well I neverr!" "Hearrt attack she had, dropped down dead on the spot.” (golden brown chips ready to eat....) “Well truth to tell Bet I have to say, I never had much time for she... she worked in that office, a cleaner she was but she never did no work. Just sprayed the polish into the air to make it smell all nice, like. And then one Christmas you‟ll never guess wot I bought 'lovely big Ponisetti plant for she.... and all she gave me was a box of awl soaps with “to Aunty Vyv ” on the back. “Well” said Bet, “you never can tell. Nice fooneral she had, mind” (selah)
“Wan‟ a fag do „ee my handsome?” ....they light up some more and made some more tea with a plate of well-seasoned chips, and they settled back for some more “bit o' chat”.... “How‟s awl Trevelyan Friggins?” asked Iris, the names coming back “Oh, he's .....” (I thought: ”he‟s gone”.... but no! the response was different this time) “......he‟s in Bodmin he is” said Bet “IS he? Oh NAW!!!!!! NAW!! Poor awl chap!” ("in Bodmin" it seemed, was worse than death) “'Ess” said Bet, “found him wanderin‟ they did, wanderin‟ „arf naked on Hayle beach..... been in fifteen year now” said Bet ruefully “Doubt he‟ll ever be out” “Wan‟ a drop of „ot in your tea my handsome?" They drink some more and smoke some more and eat some saffron cake “How‟s your son then Iris?” (Bet's turn now to question) “Oh ..... he‟s alright, though truth to tell, he‟s not been all that great..... (a tremor came into her voice) he gets depressed, don't open his mail, or pay his bills, he can‟t do nothen' he can't Bet. 'Ave to do his washing and ironin‟ I do,
his marriage broke up, wife took the baby, nearly wiped 'im out of house an' home. It‟s they city girls that‟s wot it is Bet, they city girls aren‟t no good - all they care 'bout is their c'reeerrs" (....though I was a "city girl" too - and I didn't care much about my "c'reeerr"......) "Better my son had married that other girl, the one wot came from Nancledra, he‟d have been happy then he would for sure.” ....the puffs came quick and fast, to sort of ease the tension with silence for a comfort break: more tea, more cake, another fag... The silence broke at last, “How‟s that little dog of your‟n Bet?” “Oh, he‟s gone" “Has he? ......Oh, wot‟ shame, nice little thing he was......”
© Sonya Katasheva 2012
AUTHOR'S NOTES - This poem needs to be read in a Cornish accent, but if you have never heard one you won‟t really know how it should sound! The Cornish do not tend to rush their speech - it taken quite leisurely. There are some very Cornish ways of speaking in this free write: for example – "awl" – old “My handsome” is a Cornish term of endearment “foo” – instead of saying “funeral” or “few” (with a “you” sound) the Cornish pronounce it “fooneral” and “foo” "c'reeerrs" = "careers" - the Cornish tend to drag out some double vowels, and miss out others! “For she” – Cornish say “for she” instead of “for her”
"Ess" = yes “„ee” – a contraction of the old English personal "thee" (meaning “you”) "mind" = remember "how are 'ee hanging?" - Literally "how are you hanging?" - a Cornish colloquialism meaning "How are you?" between two close male friends - the "hanging" being reference to male genitalia. “They city girls” – the Cornish say “They” instead of “those” in certain sentences “Drop of hot” – means a fresh top up of tea in your cup "Bodmin" is a Cornish town where there is a mental hospital "Nancledra" is a tiny obscure Cornish village (or at least it was in the 1960‟s!) "Ponisetti plant" - should really be "Poinsettia plant" but lack of education made poor literacy and mispronunciation! NB: Names are fictional in this poem, but are based on real Cornish names. This free write is based on a true story when I visited the Cornish seaside town of Hayle many years ago with my friend whose mother was Cornish, and we all paid a visit to an old friend of hers – there were actually about ten people in all who had died during the conversation. The deadpan matter-of-fact way they talked about death gave the whole conversation a humorous twist.
THE HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR – from Hell to Paradise
Another Monday morning at my busy bustling school scraping chairs, organised chaos we all shuffle into the hall Three hundred teens, lively and pleased our planned lesson is not to be for we have a Visitor..... and his story we must hear (well, anything‟s better than double maths) Our babbling voices are soon hushed and our babbling minds are hushed too as our visitor began his talk.... with authentic voice and modest tones His Polish name was long but to us he was just „Bob‟ he told his story plain and clear no frills, no chills, just as it came (his mind recalling pictured details....) no trace of bitterness In quiet, rural Orzorkow invasion came. Hunters came, hunting.... sniffing out their prey hunting the Jews.
Hunting meant Selection. Selection meant Segregation. Segregation meant Separation: one simple stamp – “A” or “B” “A” meant Life “B” meant Death Bob was “A” his sister was “A” (his family were “B” like lambs to the slaughter despised and rejected - forever dispersed and gone) devoted young siblings were marched, and marched, and marched .....marched to Lodz to Lodz ghetto Not yet of thirteen summers Bob‟s Bar mitzvah frozen in time the ghetto has no simcha even though musicians played... Bob called the ghetto “The Killing Factory” and named it Hell on earth Bob's young eyes which matched mine in years saw death and cruelty The searing pains of starvation, bodies strewn in the street, women fighting over dried crusts babies wrenched from mothers thrown into lorries below (his voice never wavered)
mothers screaming....weeping: Madonnas without child (Rachel weeping for her children - again.......) ...then illness seized Bob six days of darkness – unconscious he lay with life hanging on a thread... disease invaded his body no comforter, no help, just a bed and a scar of flesh on his hip Sisterly love was powerless ....for she had to work.... (and hope and pray) ghetto life offered no compassion but Bob lived (a born survivor) what perspective to bestow? This was his First Miracle. Strength regained, ghetto-work called - twelve hundred days held them captive in ghetto-limbo until the Trains..... .....the Trains came and took them to Birkenau. More Selections. (goodbye sister – forever good bye) with two dozen boys Bob was selected to live. Unclothed, stripped, and exposed for bodily audit: there was nothing to shroud their circumcised nakedness ...or that gaping hole in Bob‟s flesh
yet naked cruelty exposes kindness and humanity (and a Second Miracle) as the boys encircle to hide Bob‟s meningital cicatrix. Unnoticed, he got by – Bob lived and became a number: he was alive - but robbed ......robbed of his Identity B7650 he became as self-identity diluted into a tattoo
weeks turned into months and months turned into years another displacement ensued to Rhemsdorf, Babice (worse than Hell) ....and sense of being ceased. Death drive was desiring, craving, lusting for allied bombs to fall and kill him. But none came. Sick, he lay down to die Firmly. Resolutely. Finally. Yet a comrade would not agree to Bob's “laziness” “Get up! Get up!” was his fellow-prisoner‟s plea. This was the Third Miracle.
So Bob got up.... up they got together to work – again (“Arbeit Macht Frei” the Lie) and at the end of slave‟s day they return to find death in the camp of those unable to work Bob‟s comrade had saved his life but Bob never did find out why..... Political tables were turning Hitler‟s destruction imploded and destroyed him .....forcing another march - where to now? (do you smell that gas?) nearly three thousands souls went marching, marching to Thereisendstadt Cold. Ice. Snow. Food? (they ate the snow) less than a hundred survived Bob did. Miracle number Four: plus the Russians.....and the end of War. And fair England was the nurse who suckled these sickly Boys with life-giving milk the milk of kindness, nurture and patience....
.....for The Boys were wild war-wild and weary, but English kindness tamed them and returned to them their gift of identity for Bob it was Windermere that Lake District gem though wild itself with wind and moor it brought wild Bob back to life: Bob named it as his Paradise Bob spoke of his faith (which many had lost) he longed for spiritual direction to Gateshead he headed a Shul was there, to learn his Torah and Jewish education Bob learnt a trade working with his hands upholstery he chose: making new the old restoring and rebuilding - and repaying England as best he knew. Yet kindness though was not enough for tears would not come Time itself was needed to tease out the bitter-salt waters to grieve and mourn for family he would never see again. Bob‟s heart was parched it thirsted and pined for belonging so the Fifth Miracle ensued: a Bride he soon found (she too a Survivor a jewel preserved by nuns in a Convent)
Bob and Marie wed united as One under the Chuppah their love for each other rebuilt family with children and grandchildren and great grandchildren..... and now: joy of joys – simcha of simchas a Bar mitzvah Bob too did have: on reaching three score years and ten - plus thirteen more at 83, Bob became a Son of the Law.... at the end of his talk Bob asked for questions he encouraged eagerly: oh, there were so many! (too many to list).... yet one from a Muslim girl was pertinent: she was in minority but brave and bold with hijab she asked a Question with integrity: "Don't you think it is ironic" she asked modestly "after all you have been through that there is such unrest and distress in the Middle East?" we were all ears to hear how Bob our friend would respond but his gentleness shone through and his answer came quick and strong: "all a man wants" he said "is to provide for his family
a job, some money, to go to work every day everyone has a right to that whether Israeli or Palestinian no-one should be a pawn" his soft answer turned away wrath later evidenced by the Questioner signing her autograph on Bob's „Thank You‟ card "with love from Yasmin xxx" But everyone asked to see the tattoo .....he willingly rolled up his sleeve .....a closer look many of us later took
we wondered why he‟d kept it did he not want it erased? “It‟s evidence!” Bob said a keepsake of atrocities a reminder no Denier can deny .....yet humour is there too as Bob recounted deadpan: the tattoo number matched the PIN of his wife‟s credit card.....
“If you ever forget your PIN" Bob told her "just look up my arm” (we all laughed.....) After the epic recounting, (and an Olive Tree planted in our school grounds) it was all too clear to see that Hitler‟s megalith extermination plan could never exterminate the life force of the human spirit or the secret of Miracles......
© Sonya Katasheva 2012
Author‟s Notes: This free write is based on the true story of Holocaust Survivor Berek „Bob‟ Obuchowski. Bob has visited many schools to share his story and I have written it through the eyes of a young secondary school pupil hearing his story.
I have met Bob and his wife Marie several times and have heard their stories which they have told in several schools local to where I live and at several Memorial services. Some notes about Jewish terminology: Bar mitzvah – when a Jewish boy reaches 13 he becomes a “son of the law” (Bob could not have his Bar mitzvah due to the extremities of ghetto life, but when a Jewish man reaches 83 (70 plus the “13”) he is entitle to a “second Bar mitzvah” and joyfully Bob reached 83 in 2012 and enjoyed his Bar mitzvah at last. simcha - a Hebrew word meaning “gladness” or “joy” shul – synagogue Chuppah – a canopy under which a Jewish couple get married Other notes: “Rachel weeping for her children” – a reference to Jeremiah 31:15 (and quoted in the New Testament when the baby boys under two years of age were slaughtered at the birth of Christ) “Arbeit Macht Frei” - German words meaning “work makes you free” and these words were placed over the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps during the World War II, including Auschwitz.
REMEMBRANCE – To a Soldier
I will never know your voice, I will never know your smile ....but I know that You gave I will never know your loves I will never know your hates. ...but I know that You gave .....you gave your life in the war to end all wars (so-called), on the Somme. “KIA” (so they say) I will never know how you died I will never know your wounds. But I know you left behind
a poor widow and three children, fatherless. I will never know your dying thoughts I will never know where your body is laid But I know your widow remarried and gave birth to my father. She is our Matriarch, the Pivot of our family tree round which we all gather. You will never know Me And I would not Be but for you.... Your Death gave me Life I Remember that I Remember you I Thank You
© Sonya Katasheva 2012 Image: Public Domain - Courtesy of http://www.remembering.org.uk/
Author's Note - In memory of Henry Joseph Jarvis who was killed in action (“KIA”) on July 1st 1916 on the Somme, and in memory of his widow, my grandmother, Rosina who was left with 4 children under 6 one of whom also died the same year. She eventually remarried my grandfather. I would never have been born but for the death of Henry Jarvis in World War One.
(End of Volume One) http://katasheva.blogspot.co.uk/