Orphan

Marie-Louise Eyres

audio recording

They were given brushes, white paint
to write names on the side of suitcases,

Goldstein, Clara
Neumann, Ella
Greilsammer, Jacob
Meyer, Ines

and if without parents,
they painted Waisenkind.

These cases held lives
condensed in miniatures,
a favourite songbook,
an empty, silver-topped pill jar,
photos of the family sitting
around a mahogany table –
everyone in their best linen,
white lace collars reflecting the soft light
of the candles back up into eyes
as together they look out
towards an unknown future.

And now these suitcases lie empty,
heaped in piles at a museum
alongside a room of silky braids, cut
and clumped in with rotting tangles,
shorn-off browns, blondes and auburns
all merging into one decaying grey –

A mountain of fading, broken shoes,
where, as a visitor, I see the tip
of what I think might be Tante Chaya’s
once bright red polished heels –
worn only for dancing,
for nights of music and laughter,
for living.

Waisenkind = orphan