Father wept in ‘33

when smoke from book burning

wafted down Polack Alley in Maspeth.

He knew the line from Heine:

When they burn books,

they will ultimately burn people.

My family huddled in fear

as synagogues burned on Kristallnacht.

Newsreel Stormtroopers

rampaged through my childhood dreams.

When swastikas were painted

on the front door of our synagogue,

we were dismissed early from Hebrew School,

and, hurrying home I was waylaid

by snarling teenagers

who dragged me into Mt Olivet cemetery,

tied me to a tombstone and spray-painted

a swastika on the back of my coat.

As a child, my uncle survived a year at Dachau.

As an adult, he never went to sleep

without a full tank of gas,

just in case he had to be ready to run.