Collection of Poetry from Betyna Bock

By Betyna Bock

Nora at the Fruit Shop

In Theresienstadt
you worked in the vegetable garden
and stole fruit and vegetables.
You defied death
by disregarding the rules
and hiding them in your lumber jacket
while the Czech police weren’t looking.

Now sixty years later
in your smart red blazer
and pleated floral skirt
you breeze past the sign
DO NOT TOUCH THE FRUIT.
You give the purple plums
a friendly nip before
pinching the tomatoes
until their dented dimples ache.

The beans and zucchinis
are given a reprieve,
but not the avocados,
bruised after you have pressed
and prodded
their green wrinkled skins.

You inspect the bananas and
wag your finger at me saying
“Never eat them unless
they are black,
or you will be sick.”

Sixty years later
in the organic fruit shop,
I find you are still
defying the rules
like you did in Theresienstadt.

-Betyna Bock c.2017

Skiing Again

After twenty years in Australia
you finally took up skiing again
at Charlotte Pass.

You became a veteran there
for thirty years,
as you made an annual pilgrimage
to that sacred expanse.
Your very own white powdered temple.

In your red parka,
your camel haired boots,
you were the flush-cheeked devotee
gliding over the snow.

Everyone in the Village
rushed out to greet you.
“Nora, you are remarkable at your age,
skiing and always smiling.”

But they could not see you
when you stopped
to worship the fresh air.
Inhaling, exhaling, knowing…
That it is so good to be alive.

These were the deep, deep breaths
of an ageless survivor,
celebrating life
after surviving the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.

-Betyna Bock c. 2017

VIENNA 1982

With the greyness of Communist Czechoslovakia
behind us,
mother imbibed the atmosphere of Vienna
becoming like an excited child
licking chocolate ice cream.

All the six languages she knew
tumbled out of her,
as she seamlessly glided
from one to the other,
especially when she met
a Spanish, French or an Italian tourist.

On the bus to Salzburg
she was in her element.
She performed her repertoire
of German lieder and arias,
and conducted all her fellow passengers
as they sang along with her.

The one day bus trip to Budapest
awakened her old memories.
Suddenly,
out of the blue she told me,
“I had cousins here.
I visited them
when I was a child
during the summer holidays.”

“Where are they now?”
I asked.
“Most of them migrated to America
before the War.”
“Most of them?
Well what happened
to those who stayed behind?”
“I lost touch with them…”
she answered,
as her eyes gazed off into the distance.
But I knew
they had probably died
in the Holocaust
and she just didn’t want
to talk about it.

-Betyna Bock c.2017

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