The Lost Shoe


My great-grandmother,
fled illegally from Odessa
with her two boys
and my grandmother-in-arms.
Stole across Romania,
across Austria-Hungary,
across Germany.
Train after train.
One of the boys,
on the platform of some
central European station,
took off a shoe.
In the rush
to board the next train
it was lost.

Welcome to John Nixon 
I am very excited to host John Nixon as my guest this week.  He lives and writes in Sweden.
John is an Author, Poet, Blogger, photographer and illustrator, occasional player of Twitter
based word games, and ex-teacher.

About the Author
I think of myself as English, and still hold British citizenship, but I have now lived longer in Sweden than in the UK. Depending on which branch of my family tree I choose to climb I can claim: that I’m descended from a Scots-English Borders family (with the right to bear the Armstong tartan); that I’m the issue of London’s East End and the Russian shtetls; that my ancestors were Manchester factory owners in the English north-west.

The poem I’m submitting draws on a story from the Jewish side of the family. It’s one I’ve been told more than once by different members of the family so – true or not – it has a powerful resonance. I think because it captures a universal experience – what parent has not at some point discovered their child has kicked off a shoe, shed a sock, dropped a beloved toy? And doesn’t it always seem to happen at times of great stress? Add to that my great-grandmother’s Jewishness and their flight on the trains of central Europe forty years or so before the holocaust. There’s a great poignancy in the tale. Whether I’ve managed to put that into the poem is another matter, of course.

The poem comes from a work-in-progress called “Fifty-fifty” that I started writing when I turned fifty. The idea was a collection of fifty poems each of no more than fifty words (not counting titles) and each encapsulating a memory from one of my fifty years. (Uncompleted after five years, it’s now called “Fifty-fifty-ish”. What can I say? I’m a time opimist!)

Unlike Savador Dali (who claimed to remember his own birth) I don’t have personal memories from the very first years of my life, so the first section of the book is called “Before Memory” and includes a few poems woven around family stories. This is one.

My websites:
Novel in progress:
Twitter: @TheSupercargo