Poems and Poetry

A Choiceless Choice | A Poem by Richard Kalfus

They had managed to escape Vienna
before the Nazis marched in.
Thanks to the support of an American cousin
they settled in Washington Heights —
a Manhattan haven for Jewish refugees
Others were not so lucky.
Kurt, the couple’s 5 year-old son,
bore the name of the grandfather
In Treblinka he was gassed.

Adjustment was not easy: they needed jobs
They were lucky: he a butcher; she a seamstress
Fluency in English not a necessity

We now meet Kurt at 20 in 1965
and the girlfriend Gerorgann,
who was the love of his life.
She was mature, tender, optimistic and kind.
The two spent hours talking on the phone,
Taking long walks in the neighborhood
Eating pizza at the local hangout,
Doing homework in one of their homes

One summer evening they made love.
And everything changed.
Theirs would be a love, growing stronger
each day.

So what was the problem
of two people in love?
For In the eyes of the parents
the love could not be
Their despair had no bottom.
How could this be true?
The boy’s Jewish soul
was bound to the suffering of many.
How could Kurt forget?
His very name tied to the Uncle who perished.

The family held council… uncles, aunts cousins alike
A mafia-like meeting of gun-toting gangsters?
No guns, but the weapon was GUILT
All denounced the relationship
with passionate conviction
An affront to the very core
of their Jewish past, present and future.

Kurt was given a choice: keep the girl and lose the family
A choiceless choice
He chose the family

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