Carine Topal: “Black Sea Port, 1941”


   More than half of those who fled Poland went to Romania and Bulgaria, to the Black Sea ports.

I waved as if I knew them, though I did not. Only that they waved furiously to us on the pier. Dull-eyed, watching from below. They waved with the glee of the lucky few, their first small winnings hidden in coat seams; they held hands, raised tiny flags, wore overcoats and dresses, suits, scarves and hats, though it was spring.  I felt afraid for all of us. The wind blew; caps and fedoras fell to us, like an offering, some slipping into the water, water the color of my husband’s eyes. A persistent gray moving the ship further away. A passenger with a fiddle played and we hurried to the end of the pier. We waved. It gave us something to do. We needed to be close to those fleeing. We witnessed the tilt of our lives as if we were in steerage. But we were here, the evening sun behind us, our backs turned away, billows of smoke driving them further as we headed back to town where some were burning our shops, and others coming for our homes.

Carine Topal has had work appear in The Best of the Prose PoemGreensboro ReviewIron Horse Literary ReviewOberonCaliban, and many other journals and anthologies. She teaches poetry and memoir workshops in Redondo Beach and the Palm Springs area.

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