Canadian Writers Abroad is now based in Jerusalem, but as always, the world is our home. I say “we” because over the past couple of years Canadian Writers Abroad has shifted from being only written by me, the editor, to being written by many people. And I’d like to thank our contributors, right now, for work already published and soon to be published.
Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011) lived in the Lodz ghetto as a young woman — and wrote about it. She survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and life as a refugee — and wrote again, in Yiddish. She married and had children and divorced and kept on writing. From the mid-1970s until 1995, Rosenfarb and her second husband, Simkha-Binem (Bono) Wiener, lived part of the year in Montreal and the other part in Melbourne, Australia. Before that, in 1949, she gave a reading in London. And before that, she and her sister and her mother were living in a Displaced Persons camp in Bergen-Belsen, which was liberated by the British — including one young soldier by the name of Douglas Jensen. They became friends and lifelong correspondents. It was to his house, Windrush, in Bourne End, that she went to stay when her marriage was falling apart. Rosenfarb’s daughter, Goldie Morgentaler, writes that his place on the Thames was accessible only by boat, and the dog Rufus, in the poem below, was his. You can read more about them in “My Mother’s Very Special Relationship,” in The Guardian (14 Nov. 2015).
The poem “Bourne End” is published in Rosenfarb’s self-translated collection, Exile at Last: Selected Poems, edited by Goldie Morgentaler (Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013). I’ve chosen “Bourne End” for its notes of loss and grief. It also serves as a transition from, or farewell to, the watery UK. -Debra Martens
BOURNE END, “WINDRUSH,” March 1972
By the waters of the Thames,
there I sat, there I cried.
How shall I live on what has died,
on what is lost?
The waves rocked the boat at Bourne End.
In the house of a silent friend,
peaceful lament in the eyes of a dog.
The smile of a man seeming to blend
with the honey on my slice of toast.
The choppy Thames is a torn thread
Stitching earth to sky at Bourne End.
Wind bemoaning the death of Spring
not yet born at Bourne End.
Rain pouring out all the unshed tears
in the childlike eyes of a tight-lipped friend.
How shall I rise from here to sing?
The river’s waves restless, rushing off
into a night of stars forlorn.
Trains passing on towards days unborn,
Stove full of coal, a warm hand,
a guestroom in the house at Bourne End.
Shivers of memories biting cold,
fevers of hope climbing on dreams unspent.
Sadness exposed, exhausted, long grown old.
Burning heart, burning body. Distress.
A bird finding its nest
under a roof in Bourne End.
Boughs of lilac trees longing for blooms,
Sighing as they wash the pane.
The waters of the river rise and swell,
Flooding the night as they reach the shore.
Where is paradise, where is hell?
Will what is dead ever bloom again?
Is there a sea of beginning concealed in the end?
The waves rock the boat at Bourne End.
Further Reading and Photos:
- Chava Rosenfarb website
- Two poems by Rosenfarb are in the periodical The Jerusalem Review Vol. 8, p. 95.
- The Manger Prize is named after Itsik Manger.
What a beautiful poem! So appropriate as your farewell to London.
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