The Ides of March: A History

When my friends refused my history
because I’m tall and look so much
like them, because I bear no marks,
no grim tattoos, they did so without
malice or scorn, just silence and
uncomprehending looks. I showed
my draft card, which said “Birthplace:
Shanghai” and told the convoluted
tale again: Nazis thundering into Prague
on March 15, 1939, my journalist dad
arrested, then expelled, and how he
borrowed money for the landing fee
and sailed to China from Italy, last
ship allowed to leave. He walked
the streets through Japanese air raids,
because more than anything he feared
death beneath the rubble in the dark.
I told how he lived in China for nine
years, skipped how ill he was, how
thin he grew, and how his parents
perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
And I told how my mother survived
the camps and how they found each
other after the war and how she sailed
to Shanghai from Marseilles, stopping
on the way in Indochine and how they
married the day after she arrived.
Of course I told how I was born
six weeks premature, and how they
left for America just ahead of Mao’s
army, when I was two months old,
which is why I seem so normal,
just another white kid going to school
as if the world were clean and safe,
a snug home with doors wide open
to receive the free, the brave, the native born.

Steve Klepetar

If you have any comments on this poem, Steve Klepetar would be pleased to hear from you.