Ted Jonathan

Last Train to Auschwitz

I’d always thought that vivid memory
of me, mom and grandma waiting
for the yellow school bus that snowy
morning was my first day of grade school,
but it couldn’t have been early September
because everywhere was milky white,
and I liked how the snowflakes licked
my face. I didn’t mind mom pulling
my wool stocking cap over my ears,
but didn’t like their non-stop doting,
as though I was leaving for who knows
how long, instead of some 6 or 7 hours.
Didn’t know what to make of their wariness
of goyim, and disdain for dogs and cats.
Maybe this heavy snowfall meant frozen
hunger, most of World War 2 spent
in Russian work camps that followed
sporadic pogroms by neighboring Polish
villagers. Maybe before their transfer
to Siberia they witnessed Nazis packing
other Jews into cattle cars, families
savagely torn apart. Maybe that’s why
my leaving filled their lungs with fear.
At school twin brothers took turns tagging
me and running away. I somehow knew
that these 2 weren’t Jewish. I’m sure
that they had no clue about me. Maybe
a dumb game of tag was their idea of fun.
I was struck by their whiteness. So white,
they were cobalt. Their identical faces
bearing all the charms of a bare human skull.
I didn’t like them. Then I didn’t feel anything.
Then I knew I had to even the score. Then I
didn’t know what to feel. Maybe the yellow
school bus was a last train to Auschwitz,
maybe I was supposed to feel scared.

First published in Paterson Literary Review


Ted Jonathan is a poet and short story writer. Raised in the Bronx, he now lives in New Jersey. His collection of poems and short stories Bones & Jokes was published by NYQ Books (2009). His poetry collection Run was published by NYQ Books (2016). He can be contacted at theodorejon@yahoo.com.