A Mother Tries to Speak English The words come out crooked as if gravity does not exist, syllables floating in space then hooked on teeth shaped by a foreign tongue speaking to me no differently than horses to sheep or gurgling sounds slurred and moving lips the way pantomime pretends a soundless pain is less meaningful to the listener as my mother aches with hunger to speak and teach what she could not comprehend trained in silence by Nazi guards. The shame in being different and hated because someone must be the object while others feed themselves on the golden teeth stolen from the dead and if I would have known when spanked at birth I would have remained silent to not represent a different pain, the challenge of bringing up a child in a new land where the immigration trail leads to New York City and the tenement rows of many languages and overhead El-trains rumbling past the jungle-parking lots full of smashed cars and garbage. Each flawed word means survival and each new syllable pierces the air like shots fired at the backs of Jews running away from the sounds of boots in-step rhyme marching through the ghetto. It takes time for the body to be devoid of pain, of the beatings, of the memories of the dead lying about littering the streets with their mangled bodies where gender, and age and hair coloring becomes a montage covering the cement with skin and bone and dried blood and the empty eyes seeing the world upside down, it takes time to remember you are not the walking dead and that your new language is a home you can hide in.
Steven Pelcman is an American writer of poetry and short stories who has been published in a number of magazines including: The Windsor Review, The Cape Rock, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, among others. He was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize for individual poems and his volume of poetry, like water to STONE, Adelaide Books was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart prize. In addition, he has published poetry books: American Voices, Outlaws Publishing 2017 and where the leaves darken, 2018 Adelaide Books and the novel, RIVERBED, Mirador Publishing, May 2020. Please see his Goodreads profile for more info.