Ross: Children of the Ghetto

By George Szirtes b. 1948 George Szirtes
Love, we were young once, and ran races
over rough ground in our best shiny shoes,
we kicked at stones, we fell over, pulled faces.

Our knees were filthy with our secret places,
with rituals and ranks, with strategy and ruse.
Love, we were young once and ran races

to determine the most rudimentary of  graces
such as strength and speed and the ability to bruise.
We kicked at stones, we fell over, pulled faces,

and doing so left no permanent traces
because we fought and fell only to confuse
love. We were young. Once we ran races

in ghettos, in camps, in the dismal spaces
of  the imagination reserved for  Jews.
We kicked at stones, we fell over, pulled faces

at elastic braces, shoelaces, empty packing cases
as if  they were the expressions we could choose.
Love, we were young once, and ran races.
We kicked at stones, we fell over, we pulled faces.

Source: Poetry (February 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2008
 George  Szirtes


George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents—survivors of concentration and labor camps—after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

Szirtes studied painting at Harrow School of Art and Leeds College of Art and Design. At Leeds he studied with Martin Bell, who encouraged Szirtes as he began to develop his poetic themes: an engaging mix of British individualism and European fluency in myth, fairy tale, and . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Relationships, Men & Women, Religion, Judaism


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