“Jewish Mother” is not a stereotype. The poem gets deep into a German-Jewish mother’s personality.
Mother likes a schtuk kuchen
even if a little stale, she savors every bite
Anne Frank is often on her mind.
“I’m the same age she would have been.”
She’s proud of her family, her class,
Won’t drink soda from a can
or be seen with one hair out of place.
Remembering the disabled,
she knits them hats and scarves;
Some nights she screams
It’s from a bad dream, she insists
not the old mattress.
Why buy a new one at her age?
She teaches her grandchildren German nursery songs,
They imitate her accent and devour her Zwetschgenkuchen
Rye bread she buys at the German bakery and leaves fast,
not to ask or be asked.
Her eldest grandson says,
“If I’d been there, I would have fought back.”
He sings in Hebrew, celebrates the holidays
But her children know; she hears their sighs
and feels guilty that they are victims of her history.
Through the years she clothed herself as a
fun-loving, hard-working American mother.
She knitted ferociously,
stitching upsetting emotions
into neat and pretty rows.
She went to the Holocaust Museum
as soon as it opened,
gazed at murals of Hitler’s parades:
the girls with flying braids, smiling,
chanting the Promise:
They would not know poverty.
But these girls believed in Judenrein,
a Germany without Jews.
Schoolmates, once friends, ignored her
as if she wore the sign Verboten
that was posted on Jewish stores
where shopping was forbidden.
Leaving the museum,
she read what young Anne wrote
not so long ago:
‘I still believe
that people are truly good at heart.’
Mother holds no such belief,
but puts her trust in children
who ask to hear her story.
She ends in one breath:
It will not happen again.
© Evelyn Luchs
Evelyn Luchs, originally from Salt Lake City, lives in Boston with her husband. Her son and his family also live in Massachusetts. She works as a psychiatric nurse clinical specialist and writes poetry, short stories and children’s stories. Observing her German Jewish mother continue to adapt to her life in America is fertile ground for both psychology and creative writing. She has published “Bar Mitzvah? Already!” and “The Latke Hound,” and poems in Sandscript and Stone Country, among the many finished poems and children’s stories yet to be published.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org