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A Story My Father Told Me

Jashu was an artist in Wilno
Before the war. He would paint pictures
Of young women in dresses made of roses
And yellow flowers no one had ever seen.

In the camp he would push a stick
Through the dust and sketch your face
Give you eyes like Charlie Chaplin
Or a funny stomach like Oliver Hardy.

He told me of the women he knew
Before the war, of making love in blue rooms
After a dessert of marzipani on silver plates,
Then going into the dark, wet park

And making love again in the half shelter
Of a band shell or kiosk. Near the end
He told me he had the French disease,
And when I said I didn't understand

He pointed down to his thing there
And asked me what he should do.
He was a good friend, and I looked him
In the eye and said, "Go to the Elbe

And drown yourself." He laughed and went
To Stefan Czernak who said, "Go to the Germans
And tell them what you did." The Germans said,
"Who was the woman you made love to?"

He told them, and they beat her with clubs
And killed her and they beat him too,
And castrated him, and killed him.

Jashu was a friend and I miss him always.

 

©1999 John Guzlowski
This poem is not of the Language of Mules collection.

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