At 4:00 AM.
in a Warsaw hotel room I ate an orange
in bed, thinking it wasn’t long ago
that there were no fresh fruits here
to speak of, just the occasional jealous
citrus off a boat from Havana, rationed
with goodwill from Prague to Hanoi.
At 8:45 a.m.
a young Polish professional bound
into the meeting room, suit impeccable
and mouth full of chocolate,
telling me it wasn’t long ago
that he had to drive to the German border
just to get a Mars bar. So now he eats one
(sometimes two) for breakfast every morning.
At 4:00 p.m.
I arrived at the airport in time to witness
the pre-flight ritual of vodka with beer chasers
in the LOT lounge, wondering how long ago it was
that my family fled this city, those not
stacked like orange crates into cargo cars
and taken to the German border.
Some minutes before
we touched down on a runway west,
before stowing our tray tables into
an upright position, it occurred to me
I had no one left to ask.
Written by Hollis Kurman
Hollis Kurman is a contributing editor on the Board of Barrow Street Books and is a member of SCBWI. Hollis studied poetry writing at Penn with Daniel Hoffman, former Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress. Her poems have been published in Barrow Street, Rattle, Phoebe, the Ocean State Review, VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), and the anthology “The Path Not Taken,” where it won The Editor’s Choice Award. Her poem “The Farm” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also now writes poems and stories for children, including new picture book project “Welcome! A Counting Book of Kindnesses” (tracing the refugee child’s journey through the lens of help offered along the way—currently in development with Amnesty International Books).
In addition to her writing, she moderates literary events and is Chairperson of the Ivy Circle Netherlands, member of the Fulbright Board NL, Founder of the Human Rights Watch NL Committee, and member of HRW Women’s Rights Advisory Council. She lives in Amsterdam and, occasionally, New York.