Photo by Erik Klein

Memorial by Hungarian sculptor, Gyula Pauer, in Budapest, to Jews shot into the Danube, 1944-1945.

we’re having fish,
           says my daughter

we have to say grace,
           says my four-year-old granddaughter

I don’t know how,
           I say

in an attempt to get away
religion being something I am uneasy with
as if caught smoking a cigarette
or cheating on a test

it’s something she learned at daycare,
           says my daughter

let Grandpa eat his food

I’ll teach you, it’s so easy,
           says my granddaughter

and folds her hands and looks at me,
           eager to play

we thank thee for our daily bread
by which our souls are fed

I can’t believe you don’t know,
Jesus took the bread and the fish and did magic and so
there was enough for all the people to eat

I love fish

I remember fishing with my friend Christian,
night after night we’d go out to sea
me rowing and Christian lowering
the net into the gentle swells

we’ll catch something this time,
           we’d say

which was a kind of prayer

one morning
the net was heavy with sprattling fish
glimmering strange as Hungarian verbs
or white dragon bones dropped
on the beach by an ancient wizard

buckets full of slippery fish

they will feed the whole island,
           said the shopkeeper

looking at his scale
he handed us our money,
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so rich

or so lucky

I was very lucky,
           said my father

tell me again what it was like,
           I said

we were walking along the Danube
in the town where he was born

here they lined people up, shot them and dropped their bodies in the icy river,
           he said

they knew they’d lost the war and they did it anyway,
there is a monument there now, empty iron shoes
and the prime minister had just apologized for the past
they were part of us and we let them slip away

we miss them, their children and grandchildren,
           said the prime minister

tell me again how you survived,
           I said

but my father looked out over the water
and at the bridges crossing the river
in a past I couldn’t see

the road is busy and
I see faces in the car windows

grinning at us,
two lonely figures standing by shoes left behind
by the dead
amazed that we’re both here

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I began writing poetry, plays and fiction after a long career in Finance. I was born in Sweden as the son of two Holocaust survivors from Hungary and I am the proud grandfather of six.

Photo credit: Catherine Klein


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