Judith Kingston

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the poet

Judith Kingston is a Dutch poet living in the UK. A teacher, translator and expert procrastinator, Judith writes best when she's meant to be doing something else. Her work has appeared in Barren Magazine, Fevers of the Mind, Twist in Time, Kissing Dynamite and Sledgehammer Lit. She's also had poems featutred in Persona Non Grata and Crossing Lines: An Anthology of Immigrant Poetry. Judith's micro-chap Mother is the Name for God appeared in summer 2020.

the poems

Holocaust Memorial Day

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            I'm asked to take off all my clothes
            in a cubicle and put on a thin robe.

            I awkwardly shed my layers, elbows knocking the walls,
            stuff everything in a locker.
            The door won’t shut.

            I push it shut – it opens – I push it shut.

            I give the tiny key and my glasses to the radiologist and walk
            blind to the trolley lined with foam.
            Mostly naked, they slide me into the machine.

            I am not sick – I feel sick – I am not sick.

            I am in this small chamber.
            It is just me here with this
            genetic timebomb, this potential
            for destruction, this uncertainty.

            Without a Jewish mother you are not a Jew.

            We escaped Auschwitz but carry this,
            we carry so much
            potential.


            I am alive – I am dead – I am alive.


            I am rolled back out, unplugged,
            re-robed, my glasses, I can see,
            the key, the locker, my clothes,
            a tiny plaster–

            A letter: everything is fine
            for now.


            I am fine – I am not fine – I am fine.

Anne Frank House

In which I discover many years later that I never did read

my great-grandparents' names in the book of Jews

killed in concentration camps

00:00 / 01:01
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            I came to put my hand on the book.

            I paid my entry fee and walked around,

            mainly to turn to that page and look

            at my name in a long list of names

            of Jews that Hitler put in the ground.


            Memory betrays you though, and later I found

            that no one had said that they were dead –

            they went but did not rot in that mound

            of nameless corpses; they returned on the train,

            shedding 'victim' and becoming survivors instead.


            I don't know what went wrong in my head:

            was the book about those deported, not killed,

            or did my eyes read things that were not really there?


            Whatever that book says: they were not spared.

            Their Theresienstadt graves were never filled,

            but there is more than one way of ending up dead.

Sostenuto

00:00 / 01:15
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            At the end of the war he did not look good,

            I have to tell you.


            People gave him the side eye on the train –

            the regular train now, with seats and suits

            and luggage racks.


            No meat on his bones, no papers, no passport,

            no stories, no tears,


            everything wrung out of him, desiccated, condensed,

            he had nothing but the will to live, to make it back

            to where he was known.


            Commuters hugged their bags and children closer,

            looking at the way his skeleton peered through
            translucent skin, worried


            they might catch his wasting, or his fleas, worried
            he might want things that were theirs.


            He was my father’s uncle dressed in the skin of a ghost,

            his wit muffled under the layers of horror, dulled

            by the headstones that were never placed on

            graves. Later, he would tell stories, but not now.


            Whenever I saw him he wore a suit – his own, but

            under his clothes lurked the bleached bones that

            rattled in time with the train he was still on, which

            could not take him from that place he never left.

Publishing credits

Holocaust Memorial Day: exclusive first publication by iamb

Anne Frank House: Twist in Time Magazine

Sostenuto: Persona non Grata (Fly on the Wall Press)