A8  John in Camo Jumper sown by mother from parachute silk
Refugees After the War
by John Guzlowski

We came with heavy suitcases
made from wooden boards by brothers
we left behind, came from Buchenwald
and Katowice and before that
Lwow, our mother’s true home,

came with our tongues
in tatters, our teeth in our pockets,
hugging only ourselves, our bodies
stiff like frightened ostriches.

We were the children in ragged wool
who shuffled in line to eat or pray
or beg anyone for charity.

Remembering the air and the trees,
the sky above the Polish fields,
we dreamt only of the lives waiting
for us in Chicago and St. Louis
and Superior, Wisconsin

like pennies
in our mouths.

PHOTO: The author at age two in a jumper his mother fashioned from parachute silk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For the last 36 years, I’ve been writing about the experiences of my parents and other victims of Nazism. I hope to give voice to those who could not talk about their experiences.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Guzlowski’s writing appears in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, Ontario Review, North American Review, Salon.Com, Rattle, Atticus Review, and many other print and online journals around the world.  His poems and personal essays about his parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and refugees making a life for themselves in Chicago appear in his memoir in prose and poetry, Echoes of Tattered Tongues  (Aquila Polonica Press). Of Guzlowski’s writing, Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz said, “He has an astonishing ability for grasping reality.”