Shards of (Per­son­al) His­to­ry and Oth­er Poems

Yoram Eck­stein
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

This col­lec­tion con­tains poems about the idyl­lic world of a small town in Poland before World War II, rec­ol­lect­ed by Yoram Eck­stein, who sur­vived the war in exile in the Sovi­et Union. His images of that exile 

Qui­et­ly falls the snow In the dead of the arc­tic win­ter Cov­er­ing the end­less expanse of taiga with ghost­ly white gown 

where he shared the bar­racks of a labor camp with oth­er freez­ing exhaust­ed bod­ies,” is a cold metaphor­ic plunge after read­ing of his mem­o­ries of Poland: 

Gar­den of my child­hood Drenched in sun and fra­grance Plant­ed for­ev­er in my dreams By my parents. 

Those mem­o­ries of Poland are evoked part­ly by mem­o­ry, as he was bare­ly two years old when World War II occurred, and part­ly by rem­i­nis­cences of his par­ents, it seems. But the mem­o­ries he had as one of the Euro­pean refugees in Boukhara in 1941 are vivid, such as watch­ing peo­ple sell all they had left for food and fend­ing off lice and thieves” on a dai­ly basis. 

The last sec­tion deals with the con­flicts he had and has still con­cern­ing leav­ing his home­land and then revis­it­ing the Cra­cow of my youth.” It is the pain of rec­ol­lect­ing those won­der­ful moments of the past that go by fleet­ing­ly that Eck­stein can con­vey so force­ful­ly, as in his poem Sweet mem­o­ries of youth:”

I remem­ber a sweet fra­grance Of a near­by orange grove We were young and entranced By the moment, hope and love 

We both hoped it would last for­ev­er And be there for us to behold Always to return to heal and soothe But we for­got the way back as we grew old.

Eleanor Ehrenkranz received her Ph.D. from NYU and has taught at Stern Col­lege, NYU, Mer­cy Col­lege, and at Pace Uni­ver­si­ty. She has lec­tured wide­ly on Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and recent­ly pub­lished anthol­o­gy of Jew­ish poet­ry, Explain­ing Life: The Wis­dom of Mod­ern Jew­ish Poet­ry, 1960 – 2010.

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