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Saturday, November 28, 2015


by Judith Terzi

This Miami Herald editorial cartoon dramatized the plight of Jewish refugees aboard the passenger ship St. Louis, a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which her captain, Gustav Schröder, tried to find homes for 908 Jewish refugees from Germany, after they were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada, until finally accepted in various European countries, which were later engulfed in World War II. Historians have estimated that, after their return to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship's passengers died in death camps. Cartoonist: Robert Epstein/Miami Herald Staff, June 11, 1939. Caption text thanks to Wikipedia.

Creamy tomato basil soup, a hunk
of baguette at Panera, table #36.
I hear Korean spoken next to me,
two women in animated talk. I'd

like to understand. A father speaks
Arabic to his baby boy. The mother,
highlighted hair, chic jeans. They're
at my favorite table next to the fire-

place. I hear Spanish, Armenian. We
are 10 miles from the largest Armenian
diaspora in America. I hear almost no
English today, like sometimes at mega-

stores where you can't buy one roll
of toilet paper, a single box of tissues,
or a solo tube of toothpaste. Or, I
recall at the top of the Eiffel Tower

before it blushed tricolor in mourning.
The non-talkers here stare into computer
screens between mouthfuls of turkey chili
or a Frontega chicken panini. Here is

the gusto, the throb, the intonation of
America. Here, you can travel without
having to make reservations. I imagine
Delancey Street at the turn of the 20th:

Italian, Ukrainian, German, or the Yiddish
of my grandparents pulsing, reminiscing
between pushcarts, theater seats, newspaper
boys. Or what about on the St. Louis,

ship touching Cuban and U.S. shores with
refugees unwanted, then having to sail them
back to a Europe soon at war? Exhalation for
some. But no Exile, no unshackling from fear.

Judith Terzi's most recent chapbook, If You Spot Your Brother Floating By, is a collection of memoir poems from Kattywompus Press. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including Atlanta Review (International Publication Award, 2015), Caesura, Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems (Tupelo), Raintown Review, Unsplendid, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Beyond Baroque). She lives and writes in Southern California.