Looking back, she could only find the names of
Towns her grandparents left.
Khotin, Vitebsk, Lodz.
The Russian Empire held them all
A hundred years ago.
Looking ahead, those towns ended up
In new countries,
Ukraine, Belarus, Poland.
All those lands, then and now,
Saw her grandparents as interlopers,
Jews, Christ-killers, usurers.
Looking back, she knew she’d missed her chance
To learn their stories.
The little she thought she knew
Was sometimes wrong.
The cigarette smuggler fleeing the “old country”
To avoid police
Owned the cigarette factory
Fleeing the “old country”
To avoid paying a cigarette tax.
Why else did they come?
What was it like in the towns they left?
What did they think of their new country?
Looking back, there were too many questions,