Originally published in The Listening Eye,
My grandfather's speech is a series of stark black squares
that march across white paper. His letter
addresses my father. 1935.
Beloved son: Please send twenty dollars
to Leizack, my cousin in Poland.
Leizack in Poland, never since mentioned.
Syllables spill out only on paper, speech of my grandfather
gentle man, who rarely raised his voice to me.
How do I find Leizack? Who was he? What was his surname?
My grandfather came from Brody. What shtetl was Leizack from?
I am looking for Leizack. No grandfather now,
no father. I am old, far and away older
than Leizack could have been then.
Did Leizack have sons? Daughters?
Where are the Polish children?
I am looking for Leizack, the unmentionable.
Names of cities and towns in Poland
blur on a screen. Warszawa. The ghetto.
Lodz. Lublin. Czestochowa whose black Madonna
couldn't be burned. Night in Poland. Carpathian mountains
blot out sight. Leizack is smoke. My eyes sting.
I am trying to unearth Leizack.
I want to give him twenty dollars.
I need to give him his due.
It is late in Poland. Night rocks me
back to my grandfather's house,
where Grandmother smiles,
holds up her lacquered Chinese box,
shows us the secret drawer in back
that only she can spring.
Leizack is in this box no one can find now,
inside the secret drawer
nobody knows how to open.
Help me, I scream.
I have prayed and cursed equally,
looking. What should I do?
My gentle grandfather raises his voice:
Tell them about Leizack.
He was my cousin,
still in Poland.
Say it was late there.
Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld
Copyright © M S Rosenfeld 1999