Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c05/h02/mnt/72367/domains/patriciacarley.com/html/wp-content/themes/beveled/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

Borderlines

My next step will take me as far away from home as I have ever been even though, when I turn my head, I can still see my mud and grass hut and hear the chickens in my yard.

I can hear what is left of my family crying, just like my little sister whose hand I hold tightly, is crying.

‘Shh…little sister, shh….’ I croon. Later my soothing voice will turn harsh and my hand that caresses her little fingers will become a vise over her twisted mouth.

But for now we are merely strolling along the forest path looking for all the world like two sisters on our way to pick some fruit or find scraps of firewood that have become scarcer and scarcer in our village. We live in a forest but the wood from these trees is not good for burning, producing only smoke and ash in our fire pits. There is barely any food to cook anyway and water has become too precious for washing. We take sips throughout the day from the one bucket we have hauled from the muddy river.

The soldiers have passed this way many times in the past months taking all but two scrawny chickens we hid in the forest, our wilting vegetables, most of our buckets for carrying water from the river far away, and our men.

The first soldiers, who wore red arm bands, took my qajaw. No matter how much my chuch(we used the K’iche’ Indian names for father-qajaw and mother-chuch in my village), her chuch, my little sister and I begged and cried and beat at the soldiers with our fists, he was dragged away into the forest and we never saw him again.

Then the soldiers with black arm bands came and gave my brothers, 15 years old and 10 years old, sugar cane sticks and guns and took them away with the other young boys of my village. The last I saw of them, my older brother was marching away proudly cradling his gun. My little brother was crying, dragging the heavy weapon through the dirt and peeking at me over his shoulder while sucking on the sugar cane stick. The old men, like my chuch’s qajaw, were shot and thrown into a shallow ditch.

Two days later my chuch and her chuch had a plan all worked out for sending me and my little sister ‘North’ to a place called America, to safety. It was a grand plan while they were talking about it, but in reality, how could we do this? Two young girls, me 13, my sister 6, walking away from everything and everyone we had ever known to go into the unknown ‘North.’

We would have to walk by night and rest during the heat of the day under cover of trees and tall grasses. My chuch’s chuch told me how to find water and which fruits and plants were safe to eat and how to spot a snake or spider hiding in the fruit ready to bite us. We had to leave the village as if we were taking a walk with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a small sack with nuts, seeds and one bottle of water in it. We had to be very careful to look casual as there were spies everywhere nowadays. With all the men dead or taken away, the women had resorted to watching one another very closely for any indication of collaboration with either the red or black arm-banded soldiers. They wanted their men and boys back and some would do almost anything to achieve this. Spying became commonplace.

I am 13 so I know some things about life. I know I better not be caught by either group of soldiers, whether my brothers are with them or not. They are hungry and exhausted and some have a crazy look in their eyes. My 6 year old sister is not safe from their physical demands, nor is my chuch, nor her chuch. Young or old these soldiers want females to have sex with. We must flee while we can.

So, as the sun gets lower in the sky, my little sister and I walk as casually, but purposefully, as we can away from our hut. We wave goodbye to our chuch and I yell, ‘See you for supper!’ so everyone can hear me and think we will be back soon after gathering fire wood in the forest for cooking our meager supper. My little sister says nothing. She has not spoken since our qajaw was beaten and dragged away, our brothers lured away with sugar cane and guns and our chuch’s qajaw shot in front of our eyes and thrown away like garbage. I don’t know if she will ever speak again. Her thumb, firmly planted in her mouth, looks like a cork stopping up a clay jug used for saving the bones of our dear, dead ancestors. She is sealed and silent as the grave.

I wipe the tears from her cheeks and start to sing a song she liked as a baby and swing her arm as we walk away into the forest.

I used to love to walk here when my older brother was still playing games with me. I would hide in all sorts of crazy places while he ran around shouting my name, all the while knowing exactly where I was. I could not stop myself from giggling. He would creep up behind me as I hid under an elephant grass leaf, tap me on the shoulder, then roll in the dirt laughing while I shrieked.

But today there is no laughter. We are walking off the beaten path so we can hide quickly if anyone comes along, but this is not a game.

I imagine I hear footsteps behind us all the time and am constantly pulling my little sister under a fern or behind a banana tree. I quickly realize we did not wear the proper clothes and shoes for this journey to the mysterious ‘North.’ We have on shorts, white t-shirts and white canvas sneakers. They are our best clothes as far as having no holes in them, but white can be easily spotted amongst the green leaves and grasses. I take off my t-shirt and sneakers and make my little sister do the same. I roll them in the dirt and tell her we are now wearing camouflage outfits like our brothers, the new soldiers.

She smiles a tiny smile around her thumb, the first in weeks. I pick up long sticks to use as our ‘guns’ to frighten off snakes and lizards. I also use mine to knock down a small bunch of green bananas and then whack them to make sure there are no snakes or spiders wrapped up inside. We have food for this evening.

As we walk along I begin to think of our journey in terms of ‘borderlines’ to be crossed. If I think too far ahead I might go crazy wondering where we were going, how far to the next village, where is this path taking us?

The first borderline was the doorway at my mud house. That was the hardest one to step over. The next was the border between my village and the road into the forest. The next is up ahead somewhere. My chuch said to keep following the dirt road until I crossed a river that should be shallow enough this time of year to wade through.

We walk on until the sun begins to rise to our right. At least we had been walking north through the night. Soon I will need to find a place for us to hide during the day.

What’s that noise? A branch snapping? Have the villagers realized we did not come back last night and are looking for us?

I pull my little sister deeper into the forest to our left. When I peek out between the ferns I see men and boys with guns and black arm bands. One of the boys turns his head and looks right at me but doesn’t seem to see me. It is our older brother! His eyes look crazy and are rolling around this way and that, his head whipping back and forth, his finger jiggling on the trigger of his gun. I crouch lower, covering my little sister with my body. She starts making strangling noises in her throat and I know a full-fledged scream is not far behind so I clamp my hand hard over her mouth and whisper harshly into her ear, ‘Shut up!’

My brother stops for a moment, then moves on down the road with the others, crazy-eyes looking all around. My little brother is not with him. I wonder what has become of him and why my older brother is still with these soldiers and not protecting the younger one. I can’t think about this now or it will make me crazy, too.

It takes many hours for my little sister to calm down enough to try to sleep this first full day away from our home. It is difficult to get comfortable with the blazing sun overhead and our bellies growling. The little green bananas have probably made us sick. I tell her over and over how sorry I am for hurting her, but we have to stay absolutely silent. Even our beloved older brother is an enemy to us now. Finally we sleep. Fitfully, but we manage to sleep the day away.

Darkness descends like a blanket as the almost full moon rises in the east. We have enough light to find some dewdrops captured in the leaves of low-hanging branches to quench our thirst. Our bellies are still grumbling, but my little sister does not complain, just corks her mouth up with her thumb after sipping the dewdrops. I am determined to save the things in my bag until we really need them.

How much worse will things get?

We walk all night by the light of the moon and stars. I sing songs and tell stories aloud of things I remember of our life in the village. My little sister stumbles a few times and I know I will have to carry her soon. When she stops dead in her tracks I hoist her onto my right hip. Quite soon I have to switch her to my left hip, then straddle her thin legs across my lower back. She takes her thumb out of her mouth to hold onto my neck but once she finds her balance, corks it back in.

Just before daybreak the river appears before us. I can hear the rushing water and realize we are not going to be able to wade across like my chuch assured us would happen. We might even need a boat.

Along the bank of the river are many other people. Mostly children, like us. Mostly girls, like us. Where have they all come from? We have seen no one the past day and a half. Only the soldiers, our crazy-eyed brother and a few screeching monkeys.

We all stand in a line looking at the rushing water as the sun sets to our left. We are probably all thinking the same thing.

Now what do we do?

 One taller girl points across the river and says: ‘Mexico.’

That’s where we were headed? Mexico? My chuch kept saying ‘North’ to America. But Mexico is in the way?’ How big is Mexico?

Some of the girls step into the water and when it does not sweep them away I run in with my little sister and we wash ourselves and our clothes as best we can. Our white t-shirts and sneakers are permanently brown now but they no longer smell so bad. I find a soap plant near the river bank and wash my little sister’s hair and mine so we smell and look a little better also.

We are shy with the others at first and not everyone speaks the exact same language, but we are together now, a force of 20 girls. We share our horror stories of fathers and grandfathers being beaten and killed, brothers taken away by soldiers, mothers and aunts raped. Some of these girls had been raped by the soldiers too. I pray my older brother has not been a part of that, or the killing either, but remembering his crazy eyes I can no longer be sure he is the same innocent boy I knew and loved. He has crossed over a borderline of his own.

 

As we sit shivering in the dark a large raft appears in the river, two men pushing it with long poles. They yell to us.

‘We are friends. We will help you cross this river.’

What can we do but nod ‘OK’ and step aboard.

Another borderline is crossed. The river that takes us into Mexico.

What lay ahead for us in this desert land?

I hold my little sister tightly against my chest. I am terrified this boat with no sides will roll over and dump us all into the river. We will drown and our chuch and her chuch will never know what has happened to us. Were we safe in America? Were we in school? Were we living with a nice family who would send for them next year? Or…did we die on the road, no one knowing who we were?

The raft bumps roughly into the opposite bank and presto! we are in another country. The two men do not ask for money which is a good thing since we have none.

Why are they helping us, then?

A big truck is waiting by some trees and we all climb inside. Again, what else can we do? I hand my little sister up to another girl we met on the raft, pull myself up and sprawl on the hot metal floor. The back door slides down with a clang as the sun comes up on day three.

We are encased in darkness once again only with no moon or stars to give some light and guidance. I try to sing a song but my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I hear the word ‘mama’ whispered in the darkness. It is the first word my little sister has said in over a week. I hold her tightly, choke out “Adios, Guatemala” and weep.

I would have said ‘Hola!’ to Mexico but we never saw it. We sat or lay down on the hot metal floor, or leaned against one another for comfort for many, many hours. The air became thick with whispers, sobs, body odor and other smells.

The man who drives the truck pulls to the side of the road once to let us out to relieve ourselves in the dark and stretch a little. But in ten minutes we are shoved back into the truck and told to stay quiet. We don’t need this reminder. More long, hot hours slide by.

 

Another borderline to cross:

The truck stops and I can hear a gate going up. Someone is knocking a stick or gun against the sides of the truck. Men’s voices argue back and forth. No one opens the back door. The truck starts up again after a few more minutes and we all let our breath out in one big ‘whoosh.’ We stay tense and alert. Anything can happen as we cross this border.

 

My little sister is feverish. All we have eaten are the seeds and nuts I saved in my bag and sips of hot water from the plastic bottle. She is too weak to cry but her thumb is still securely corked in her mouth. All the girls are sick in some way.

Will we ever make it ‘North’ to America alive?

 
The truck slows down to a full stop. Has a day gone by? Two? The back door slides up. The bright sun hurts our eyes. I jump down and my little sister is handed to me. She winds her thin legs around my waist as I hoist her onto my sore right hip. The driver of the truck says simply, ‘America.’

We made it! We are alive and in the ‘North.’ In America! I feel sad that the rest of my family cannot share this joyous moment, but so happy to be here! I think of all the things that will be possible for me and my little sister now. We will be free of hunger and the extreme poverty of our village. We will no longer have to fear the soldiers with their red bands or black bands and guns pointed at our heads. We will be free to go to school and get a job at a magical place called ‘Walmarts.’ We will send for our chuch and her chuch next year and have them live with us in a brick house on a street lined with trees. We will find my brothers somehow and bring them over too. Maybe we will have a cat and a dog.

I hear cheering voices and see flags and signs fluttering in the hot breeze. The people of this place are excited to see us, are welcoming us to America. I never expected such a wonderful thing!

I turn to the driver of our truck and ask him to translate these words of welcome. The voices are rising as one now, the banners held higher.

He looks at me with pity.

“They are saying, ‘Go home! Back to Mexico! Go home!’”

I look closer at these people. I see now that their faces are angry. They are shaking their fists at us. One man has a gun pointed at us.

I say to the driver, ‘But we’re from Guatemala. If we go back home we will be killed or worse! We’re Guatemalan, not Mexican, so we can stay, right?’

He shrugs his shoulders as if to say, ‘Who knows?’

 

Last borderline:

The crack in my broken heart.

 

Save Me

It is dark. So dark she cannot see her fingers when she wiggles them in front of her face. Her body is pressed in on all sides by other young girls. Girls, like herself, alone and frightened.

The stench in the bottom of this boat is so overwhelming even the scarf she has pressed over her nose and mouth does not keep it away. She tries to breathe slowly and shallowly not letting too much of the stench into her lungs. Sweat, vomit and urine mixed with something denser, deeper – basic animal fear. She could taste it on her lips, inside her mouth.

The girl pressed into her right side sobs aloud and is quickly shushed by the older girl pressed against both their backs.

How long have they been on this boat? She has never been on a boat before, even though her family lives by the water. Only her father and two older brothers go fishing with their small boat. Every day they would go out looking for fish to feed their own family and, hopefully, with enough extra to sell in the market. Every day, that is, until the day her father and brothers did not return at sundown. Other fishermen found their boat, but not her father and brothers.

Her mother cried and cried. How would the rest of the family of 11, now 8, eat? Women were not allowed to work outside of their homes.

The youngest of her brothers were sent to beg in the streets. They weren’t very good at it and came home with only 1 or 2 coins and long, sad faces. They hated begging in the streets where their friends might see them.

The girl could tell the family would not survive much longer with no food and no way to pay the rent for the small, dirty hut away from the water and sun they now had to live in. No yard to grow vegetables in like before, no hope for going to school now – for her brothers, that is. Girls in her fishing village did not go to school. No point to it, since they would be marrying young, having enough children to help with the fishing and gardening while the wives learned to clean fish and pack them to be ready for sale on market day.

Soon, her parents would have chosen a husband for her. It would soon be her 14th birthday, time for her to marry and start having babies. Now, however, without a father and older brothers to negotiate a marriage for her, this would never happen. Sometimes girls without fathers married if she brought enough property and money to the marriage, but she had neither.

What to do? What to do?

Her mother cried all the day long and their stomachs were empty at the end of each day.

One day, about a month after her father and brothers disappeared she found she had wandered to the middle of her village. In the village square was a man, a handsome man wearing a white caftan and white trousers. He had a white straw hat in his left hand and was gesturing with his right hand for her to come to him. When he smiled, his teeth gleamed whitely, blazing in the sunlight. Even his voice sounded white.

He told her he was looking for young, strong girls just like herself to work for rich people farther inland. Could she cook, clean fish, sweep a floor? The girl nodded yes and yes again! She could do all these things!

This was all a lie. Her mother did all the work in the house.
The girl would learn these things after her fourteenth birthday in 3 weeks. The secrets of womanhood still eluded her, but soon all would be revealed. The girl was desperate to impress this man with the blazing smile, so she answered yes to everything he asked.

He told her he was looking for young, hard-working girls who came from good hard-working families who had fallen upon hard times. He knew of wealthy families in the nearest big city who were in need of maids and cleaning women and nannies for their spoiled children. They paid handsomely for these young workers. Would she like to be one of these chosen girls? She would live in a castle, enjoy the best food, be able to save money from her monthly salary to send home to her mother.

Yes, yes, yes!

The man with the blazing smile said there was only one little task she needed to perform first. He asked for ‘only $900’ to pay for her passage to the big city, uniforms for her new position and government papers to prove who she was and why she was traveling inland. If her mother agreed to this arrangement and paid the $900 she could leave by the beginning of next month, on her 14th birthday.

The girl was thrilled. New shoes, new clothes, a new cloak, food, a room in a castle and wages to send to her family.

She was so excited about this opportunity to save her family from starvation and shame that she ran all the way home, even though a proper young woman, no matter her social status, would never run in the village streets. Because she was so pretty the townspeople indulged her high spirits and forgave her for running through the town. She was a good runner and her braids flew straight out behind her ears in a most comical and charming way, or so she had been told. She was her father’s favorite, even above her brothers, so she could not let them down even after their deaths.

The man with the blazing smile provided a better, richer life she could not refuse. So…she begged and cried and pleaded and stamped her foot until her mother gave in and sold her  wedding sari with the golden threads she was saving for the girl’s wedding. The wedding that now would never take place. The sari plus her mother’s wedding band fetched the $900 needed to travel to the inland city where the girl’s exciting new life was about to begin.

 

In the dark, by the water, 20 of us, mostly girls of 14 years or younger, stood in a circle holding tightly to our bundles of clothing and perhaps a stuffed dolly we just couldn’t part with. We all tried to smile at one another, but soon our heads were bowed and we became lost in our own thoughts.

The man with the blazing smile came striding into our circle with his hands outstretched to collect the money we brought. After collecting the money he also collected our travel papers which had been made out quite properly for each of us. He would stow these items for safe-keeping until we returned to visit our families on our first day off a month from now.

I as yet sensed no harm in the man’s actions. They made sense to a 13 year old girl.

Then he had some men collect our luggage and stuffed dollies claiming they would also be safer in one place until we were assigned to the rich people’s home in which we would be living and serving.

We climbed into the fishing boat and were wondering aloud how such a small boat could carry us and all of our possessions to the bigger town upriver when to my surprise the boat turned around and went down the river into the harbor. There, a large boat strung with little lights and rising higher into the air than any building in my neighborhood, lay waiting for us. I came to know this big boat to be a sailing yacht for rich people to sail across the wide water in front of us.

When we climbed on board there were perhaps 30 girls already there. We were tossed in with them. No money, no bundles of our precious possessions and, more alarmingly no government papers to prove who we are. It slowly dawned on me that we had been kidnapped and would never see our families again. The money my mother had sold her most prize possessions for was lining the clean, white pockets of the man with the blazing smile. Who knew where we were going now? We climbed a rope ladder up onto the deck of the bigger boat and were shoved belowdeck where I found myself in a space so dark I could not see my fingers when I wiggled them in front of my face.

The next morning – I could only guess it was morning by the tiny slices of light blinking through the spaces between the slats of wood overhead, the cries of the birds seeking their morning breakfast, and the muffled sighs of the men as they came awake above us – I found myself in the same dark, dank putrid hole I was in all night. So, this had not been a dream I could awaken from. It was a nightmare that I would never be able to escape.

Soon there was the sound of a motor and laughter both high like a woman’s and low like a man’s. The motor stopped and there was a thud as a smaller boat carrying these people hit against the side of our boat. More laughter. I heard people climbing the rope ladder we had used the night before, but these women were allowed to stay up on the top deck in the warm sun and cool breeze and fresh salty air.

These people were not barefoot as we were. I could hear the clacking of metal heels on the floor boards above our heads. Then I heard a sound that froze my blood in this hot, sticky, stifling place.

It was the deep rumbling laughter of the man with the blazing smile. I had wished to never see him again, but here was my captor laughing right above me with his friends.

What other surprises awaited me?

The older girl in charge of us whispers to us to stay silent. Not one sound or we will be discovered and all killed and thrown over the deck as food for the sea monsters. We all believe her.

Just as she finishes giving us this warning something scuttles across my cramping, outstretched legs with claws that dig into my flesh. It must be a rat. A scream forms in my throat and travels up my tongue into my mouth. It sits behind my clenched teeth and lips pressed tightly together. It wants to escape into the fetid, heavy air. If I open my lips even the slightest bit the scream will escape and go on and on and on….spinning and spiraling up and up through the tiny slits in the boat’s boards overhead and up into the clean, cool sea air. Then upward into the sky. Perhaps my scream will travel on the wind back home to my mother who will stop in mid-sweep with her worn broom in one hand gnarled with work and age, the baby strapped to her back crying weakly from hunger. Perhaps she cocks her head slightly thinking she hears my voice but, ‘no’ her eldest daughter is no longer in the hut, no longer in the fishing village, no longer in the bigger town upriver working for a wealthy captain of many fishing boats. No, her sweet eldest daughter, soon to be 14, is no longer even in the same country. I think about being food for the sea monsters and swallow the scream that is knocking against my front teeth and I pull my bare legs in closer to my chest and wait for what, I do not know.

The boat’s motor starts up and we must be heading out to sea now. After a while the motor stops, but we keep moving so the sails must be up and they are moving with the wind. The waves are rough and the ride bumpy and many of the girls are vomiting adding to the stench and fear.

I can hear more laughter and music above my head, the clink of glasses, the booming voice of the man with the blazing smile. How can these people be enjoying themselves with so much misery right beneath their dancing feet? This question will stay with me my whole life. The distance between people like myself from people like those above will remain a mystery to me.

I have eaten nothing, but still manage to vomit as the boat hits wave after wave. Time slows down. The hours, minutes and seconds tick slowly by marked by pain in every part of my being, throbbing in my head and behind my eyes. Hurting my very heart.

I am like my baby sister now. Too weak to even cry properly.

The boat suddenly stops, knocking against wood, a dock somewhere in the world. The chattering people with the noisy, metal heels go down a plank of wood and disappear, their laughter floating back on the sea air. After a while, hours perhaps, a man opens a door in our ceiling – his floor – and sends a ladder down beckoning us to climb up. No one can move at first as our legs are frozen into whatever position we have been sitting in all night and day. Our clothes are soaked with urine and vomit and worse. But, slowly, ever so slowly, we rise and push or partially carry one another up the ladder.

I wait until all the other girls are above deck. I climb up the rough wooden ladder and poke my head out the hole and stop, startled by the harsh sunlight even though the sun is setting now. I am made breathless by the clean salty air filling my ruined lungs. I am amazed by the sight before me. A castle with a high stone wall all around. Sand. Lots and lots of white sand dazzling even in the fading sunlight. I walk down the plank of wood and step one small bare foot onto the sand, spellbound by the sight before me.

 What will become of me now? Someone, please save me!

 

Across the expanse of sand, beyond the castle and its walls of protective stone that will soon become the girl’s prison, an American woman is sitting by her kitchen window, safely inside her gated community of ex-patriots.

A cup of tea is midway between the table and her parted lips. She is wondering why she is in this desert country, so foreign to anything she has ever known. She feels a chill and shivers although it is turning out to be another scorching day. Something, someone has just called out to her: “Save me….”

“Yes,” she whispers to the empty house, to her empty self.

“Yes.  Please God. Save Me.”

 

I Call Myself Pentimento

 No one sees me

No one really looks

I’m dressed up, dolled up

to look 21 when I’m only 14.

Primped and pimped

That’s me.

Made to look enticing and exciting.

Someone other than I truly am.

Someone I surely am not!

Don’t know where in the world I am.

Some famous race track town.

My pimp, ‘Mr. K.’ – he wants

us girls to call him that –

is happier than I’ve seen him in weeks.

‘Lots of Money to be made here,

little girls, so let’s get to work.’

His ‘let’s’ means ‘us little girls’

Mr. K doesn’t like it when ‘us girls’

talk to each other but

the one next to me in his van

looks so terrified I say,

‘Hey, my name is Pentimento’

She says, ‘That’s no name I never, ever heard of.’

I say, ‘I named myself. It’s a high-society-sounding

name. Unusual. Men remember it and

ask for me and that makes Mr. K happy

and that’s what keeps us safe and alive.’

I walk alone into the hotel lobby

making myself invisible to

some prying eyes and noticed

by other eyes. I stay in the shadows

hiding behind what’s already there but

visible to those looking for someone like me.

that’s why I call myself Pentimento.

It means something like hiding in plain sight

or artist’s regret  or some such…..

Well, I don’t know what regrets

that artist fellow had about the hour

he spent with me last year.

Mostly he talked about art and

how in some old paintings

you can see where the artist changed his mind and

painted over something.

‘Over time,’ he said, ‘the old figure starts to bleed through:

a dog where a little boy now stands, a balloon where

a cloud now floats overhead.’

And I thought heck, that’s me!

My old self is covered over by

this make-up and these god-awful clothes.

But my real, true self is still in here

peeking out and obvious to

someone who is really looking,

who  wants to see Me.     Lucy.

I’m too young-looking even with

this get-up on to go into

the hotel bar so I stand around the

edges of the lobby avoiding the desk clerk and

normal-looking patrons.

I see Mr. K outside holding that new girl

in a vise-grip and yelling without raising his voice one iota.

He shoves her into the hotel’s rotating door.

I’m so intent on watching them I don’t

hear the man come up behind me until

he strokes my shoulder

with his diamond-ringed hand.

‘Hey sugar, what’s your name?’

I turn and plaster my sweetest,

little girl sexy smile  on my face.

‘Pentimento.’

‘That’s quite the name. What’s it mean?’

‘It means let’s go upstairs and have a good time.’

While we wait until we can get on

an empty elevator car

I put my hand out and say

‘This’ll be $100 right now and more later

if you know what I mean.’

He puts something in my hand

as he backs out the closing elevator door.

It’s 2 $100 bills and a business card.

I  read the card 2x  as I slide down to the elevator floor.

Finally, finally after 4 long,

lonely, tortured years

someone sees me

ME, Lucy.

I no longer have to be Pentimento.

 

The card says:

If you are in trouble dial this number ***

We are ‘Eyes Wide Open’

We see You and are here to help You.

We care about You.

Call us.

 

 

Eyes Wide Open

On August 12, 2015 my friend Debbie Fowler – with moral support from me – officially started a 501(c)3 Non-Profit called Eyes Wide Open NENY, Inc.

The Mission of Eyes Wide Open is to give hope and healing to women and girls who are victims/survivors of human trafficking in the Capital District.

Check us out on Facebook and Website: www.eyeswideopenneny.org.

Over the past 6 months we have met with wonderful people who share the vision of Eyes Wide Open. Debbie has been invited to speak about this issue at many area venues and I have displayed my art work and read my poetry. The following pieces I wrote illustrate the plight of trafficked girls everywhere.

Violinist

I love my violin.

I practice and practice

after school each day.

I dream of being

a concert violinist

in a long white dress,

my hair swept up and back

into a silver chignon

with silver high-heeled shoes to match.

My brother is at the piano

and we imagine ourselves

playing in Vienna.,

the Barcarolle from

Tales of Hoffmann,

A soloist at our side.

 

Of course, not now

but after the war.

After the Nazis leave,

after we reclaim my violin,

hidden away for safe-keeping,

and his piano

my parents had to leave behind

when we children left for England

away from the coming horror

and they were forced to live

in another German town

and could not take

their things.

 

But we will come back

and play music again,

Won’t we?

 

After the war…..

Always after……

Yellow Star

It is September 30, 1936

I am 12 years old today.
I have received a yellow star pin

for my accomplishments in gymnastics.

 

I am proud to wear it.

 

It is April, 1937

We hear about a new law

declared by the Nazis that soon

all Jewish people

must sew a yellow star

on their clothing

for everyone to see.

 

 

This is not a good thing.

 

It has not happened in our

part of Germany yet

but we hear it is coming to us

from east to west.

 

I hide my yellow star pin.

 

It means something different now.

Fortunate One

Everyone says I am fortunate.

“Lucky,” they say.

“You were lucky.”

“You got away when others did not.”

“You and your brother escaped

The Nazi terrors.”

“You were so lucky

to be sent to England

to live where it was safe.”

 

Was it luck that put me, a Jewish girl,

   in Mainz Germany on

      Kristallnacht?

Was it luck that only my father

   was arrested and sent to

   Buchenwald?

Was it luck that got me a seat 

   on a train bound for the Dutch coast

   then on to English shores

where Nazi bombs fell day and night?

Was it luck that guided my life for 7 ½ years

   separated from the only life

   I had ever known

        and loved?

 

Yes, maybe I was fortunate

all those years ago.

But, had I not been a Jewish girl 

living in 1939 Nazi Germany  

I would not have needed

all this ‘luck’

for my very

Survival.

 

 

Margot Hanau’s Tale

In April 2015 I had the opportunity to meet and interview Margot Hanau who, as a young girl, survived the Holocaust by being sent to England, along with her brother, by her parents via ‘der Kindertransport.’

She, her parents and brother lived in Mainz Germany during the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazi party before they were able to escape. Margot’s first-hand experiences bring to life this period of darkness that over-swept Europe and threatened the peace of the entire world.

One of the stories Margot told me was how she and her brother Erich played –on violin and piano – the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann in the mid-1930s. So I titled my book “Margot Hanau’s Tale.”

Stories collected on March 28th and 29th 2015 which became the basis for “Margot Hanau’s Tale” written by Margot Hanau and Patricia Carley

“Kindertransport  from Germany to England, 1939”

Margot Jungermann Hanau greets me at the door of her apartment on Long Island, New York. She is a petite lady with soft gray hair framing her sweet face. She takes my hand in hers while looking into my eyes with her own faded blue ones. She welcomes me into her comfortable, spacious living room which overlooks a pond in the middle of her apartment complex.

I wonder, briefly, if anything of her current living arrangements reminds her of her early life in Germany and England. She seems happy to be near the water.

 

As we settle in, I ask Margot a few background questions such as her date of birth; place of birth; parents’ names and occupations. She lists off the answers and soon begins to speak about her life as a Jewish-German girl in the mid-1930s as Hitler and the Nazis begin their rise to power and initiate the systematic elimination of  Jews and other ‘undesirables’. 

Her eyes take on a faraway look as she travels through her memories of nearly 80 years ago. For me this is history I read in a book for school.  For Margot it is but yesterday.

 It is her life story.

 

 Following, is a collection of Margot’s reminiscences  interwoven with historical background  that bring to life ‘Der Kinderstransport’ or the exodus of 10,000 mostly Jewish-German children to England in the early years of what history calls World War II.