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Syndic Literary Journal

Social Justice ∼ 4 Poems by Britta Kollberg


Waiting for Pesach

by Britta R. Kollberg

Narration by Britta Kollberg

For we have been slaves…

We were slaves of Egypt which made us construct their world-wonder sights,
No tourist now marvels at how we towed rocks and cut out the stones. And none
of ourselves may go there now, look at the pyramids: emptied memories crumbling
down on kidnapped hikers and suicide bombs exploding into the rising sand.

We were slaves of American farmers who made us bend over their wide cotton fields,
Plants high as a man could not hide us, but your daily shirts and sheets weighed us down;
And still we bow to the rich and the poorest of white working-men, mining
coltan for everyone’s gadgets, slaves to the outcast of restless white towns.

We have been slaves of European histories told and retold about settling in households
with everyone knowing their toys and their tools, their garden and fence. To share
is a business for which you train lawyers and real estate agents. For us, you recount nomadic
dirt stories: your campsite vacations—romantic, rare thrills; our travels—a proof you possess
what you are.

I am a slave to my forefather’s crimes. My grandfathers,
dead and numb, lost their Germanic stories in killing. Remained,
I am the loot of their wars. I don’t deserve to say “we”
and to say “I’m a slave”: I own two bedrooms, a cell phone,
I sweat at sightseeing pyramids.
I tithe, I volunteer at a shelter, I owe—
And elsewhere, or here, slaves are being sold on and on.



Palacio Real de Madrid

by Britta R. Kollberg

The king had everything decorated in style,
we are shown
        the antechamber
        and waiting room,
        the dressing room
an alcove in pale blue silk with a vault fresco
in forgotten allegoric rosé;
then we visit his bedroom
where he also died
in style or not, about that we don’t know.

The king’s mother had everything
decorated in style,
         the dining room,
         the music chamber,
         the banquet hall
where the young queen had her wedding reception
along a table clothed in white linen with silver knives,
the windows locked
by dark red drapes
and heavy voile curtains of an impervious grey.

The palace had everything decorated in style,
        the throne hall,
        the gallery: royal portraits in competition
        and the study chamber
showcasing the king father’s abdication note
signed by the prime minister, next
to the proclamation of the new king. Down the hall,
a dead ram hangs from the royal emblem. Why
do we even want to visit
the king’s and prince’s and king’s mother’s rooms?



by Britta R. Kollberg

I could imagine a dozen things more important
than home:
survival (wherever);
a meal a day (even if you can’t get a homemade
breakfast and home-cooked dinner after a day
full of work and school and homework and play);
speaking of which: school; and work;
a night’s sleep (without PTSD chasing you
up after midnight);
awakening to your loved one’s deep smell
of soap and breath and little patches
of sweat between the folds of their neck;
and another half dozen of things you might
fill in yourself ticking yes or no as you like:
to speak freely (whatever);
to read all the books you wish
without typing up censored parts
secretly from a borrowed illegal copy;
a passport that opens all doors;
and to be friendly ignored on the street
as if you were one of the usual crowd;
a language to sing in;
and to be friendly cared for when you fall
as if you were one of the usual crowd –
or all of those other things
a home country may or may not provide,
but can never substitute
by itself – or maybe I’m wrong and fighting
for countriness against whatever, whoever
will eventually lead us home?

End of reconstruction

by Britta R. Kollberg

My neighbor has stopped
watering the flowers. She calls the cleaning man
and son of the owner
by his first name
which is unusual in this place
of pronouns and titles and gentle
men and women in gentle
new homes. We are old
gentry, my neighbor and I, housemates from times
when the chestnut tree in the backyard
was all garden and all fresh color
there was. I keep forgetting
her first name, but I know
her summer plans, and I keep seeing
the new rich of all lingoes (that turned
my neighborhood into a housing
market), I see them today collecting
from trash bins the empty
beer bottles of young
people born yesterday, just after, just
slightly before all
this building and drinking began.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
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