On the last Sunday in August, when cold winds press

against their measured pace, the survivors still come

to name the dead.


A hall, spare and simple, is cavernous without you,

an empty chair beside me—

in case I need to whisper in your ear.

Memory is never framed in photographs,

but anchored in your words

they carry me on Pegasus’ wings

to the absent ones I grew to love.


On other Sundays when we walked along the pier,

my hand in yours, you’d take me to Baluty,

where bookish weavers declared

Isaiah’s brave new world and where,

in dusk’s half-light, two figures

waited for us at the doorway to their Bundist dreams.


The staccato of the shuttles quietened,

air pungent with onion and potato soup,

behind a coal-filled stove I nestled in your mother’s warmth,

stood close enough to see

your father’s face aglow in the embers of his pipe;

on his lap a Yiddish volume beneath a stream of silken ash.


And then, as always, like a thunderbolt they came—

the shameless men who tore apart a prophet’s vision,

built a wall and shut the gate with that decisive thud.

Inside, a timber footbridge sagged beneath

the crusted blood-stained ice; pitch black

helmets incinerating any promise of a day. And at night,

through the windowpane of your one room palace,

the squealer moon leaked its yellow perfidy.


Leave! You’d plead, your voice, familiar, low and urgent,

Leave this place where madness has no seasons.


And so, your eyes, dark with silent grief, propelled my flight

above Baluty’s chimney tops.

Floating like a lone Chagallian image, from there

I’d watch you board the train, watched

black smoke unfurl into a seamless August sky,

watched it follow you.

As it followed me, follows me, will follow…


Marcia Jacobs

Marcia Jacobs lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her essays and poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies here and abroad. These include Meanjin, Westerly Magazine, Poetica Magazine, Voices Israel and Singing For All He's Worth—Essays in Honour of Jacob G. Rosenberg. (Picador). Marcia is currently working on a Memoir in Essays. The poem, AUGUST, is dedicated to Marcia's father, Jacob G. Rosenberg. At its centre, is the memory of accompanying him to the annual commemoration of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto. She writes how it feels to continue a yearly ritual, which in the aftermath of his death, also precipitates recollections of regular Sunday walks along the pier. During this time together, he'd often tell her about his childhood and adolescence in Baluty, Lodz and about his parents and those final days before their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of his family, Jacob was the sole survivor.