Nina Simon

Refuge

On an airless summer evening
I sit in the garden
remembering how
we came with nothing
but the clothes we wore

to an unfamiliar address
scrawled on well-thumbed paper
dreaming of safety,
a city paved in freedom.

Two dingy rooms
in a tenement block
that smelled of cabbage,
unwashed bodies, mould-damp walls.

Ten hours a day
bent over a factory machine,
counting the pennies
to give the landlord on rent day
summer heat, winter frost.

But no more listening
for the stamp of soldiers’ boots
black smoke from burning homes,
no shots fired, women raped
no river of blood
flowing to death camps.

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