! ! Aunt Jess Poem by Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Marton, Lancashire

! ! Aunt Jess

Rating: 2.9


Our 'Aunt' Jess died just days ago; her partner phoned last night;
the funeral was private, perhaps for reasons which
we now might guess; a village can be peaceful,
but that's no guarantee they'll be accepted -
those too full of life to be discreet.

So, rest in peace, we say and mean;
most of us, thank God, not knowing un-peace in
its most extreme;
and now we'll never know the story which she only partly told
and which I could not bear to probe,
that night when she and I, then younger, talked about
that topic which some tiptoe gingerly around,
some leave unsaid. And why, I asked,
did someone tell me that she'd changed her name
eight times when still a child?

Some live lives so livid red
that perhaps they're best not told; or if they are,
then carefully. In '44, towards the end of 'Hitler's war',
great bands of Jews from Eastern Europe,
from the camps, or outhouses of village farms,
cellars, sewers, God knows where, set out together from the East
ahead of those advancing Russian tanks,
and through the very heart - if that's the word -
of Germany; by night; and gathering on route
just like some ragged snowball, groups of the unidentified
and paperless; but soon too many souls there
not to draw a sentry's eye. Of that exhausted day
in Christian church when only she survived - and why -
you'd not believe, and I'll not tell.
So she, long orphaned, finally arrived,
and though few knew it, became a live memorial
to the eight families who, over the years,
had shielded her 'our child'. Destined, it seems, to live;
as lively aunt to child as anyone could wish.

And when I'd heard from others close,
and gently guessed, more from her silences,
just what she'd suffered 'at the hands of men' -
so choice a phrase - or how survived,
I could not be surprised she chose to live
at ease with lover of her kind.. Aunt Jess,
should I be sorry that I didn't ask you more?
I did not like to pry; and you
so needed to get on with life.

So yes, Aunt Jess:
please rest in peace.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Ghada Shahbender 04 May 2005

My aunt Maiada, the last of six brothers and sisters passed away two months ago. Reading your poem today I mourned her again and regret I did not listen to the stories she had to say. Your poem has touched me more than you could believe possible. GS

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Peter A. Crowther 04 May 2005

A good story beautifully told

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wow, Michael. i have indeed felt this way about every friend and relative from that Great Generation. this is just an awesome elegy. my best regards. Jake

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Michael Shepherd

Marton, Lancashire
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