In Frankfurt, a part of you you’ve never met

rises through the spine

and locks your jaw:


someone at the airport will know who you are.


You look down at your passport

certain that by some act of the cosmos

the name will read


Aliza Tesviah


but it does not. It says America and Chicago

and Lisa and many

numbers, numbers


on the passport.


The walkways of European airports are endless

and windowless. What if in the maze

you walk through your gate


and find yourself on a train.


I cannot remember what my Nonnie says

about schmaltz, how long to leave the brisket

in the oven, or the prayer for the dead.


All your life’s inheritances


in the form of things and lessons,

but no one told you about this, this one

here in your throat


this anxiety:


How can anyone live here now.

How can anyone think this

happened a long time ago


or never at all.

Dislocated Cities



In the synagogue ruins, we stand on opposite sides

of a rock window

natural as 11th century figures

still acquainted with each other

as though no history had happened

through the rock lung.

You do not hear my sigh, exhale

as you inhale and think

Yes, Miriam.

My skin matted out by

the sun, dusty pearl, matching

the ruins we look through to each other.





A sign says verboten.

Because it is the language of your ancestors

you obey. This

is not the language of my ancestors

though there are Jews

who came from here.





We have never been lovers.





After the biergarten, after the river

drowning itself in the river,

after the long stroll through

the Rhinealley, music

in the vast cathedral

air from the crypt below

rising, centuries old

like the groundwater

below the synagogue ruins

just across the plaza. Judengasse

abandoned. The cathedral

where we are among a listening crowd. Pain

on the edges of my body

though bodies do not have edges

but are abstract and rounded.

The helix of music

is the helix of genetics

exhausting me, but waking you up.

It is so cold here.

I cannot cry for how numb I am

down to the breast.

We will never be lovers.





On the stone path leading to our pension,

a gravestone. Hebrew carved in

by German peasants.

They mimicked the shapes

but could not read

the names being written.

Another stone

left unturned / I cannot turn over. Another story

where the protagonist disappears

without a sound.


Twin beds in our room

bumped next to each other. I am cold

and sleep right away.

In the morning, you are awake

pacing. The news in German, the Rhine

still spilling into itself.

When everywhere else I dream,

here nothing.

For breakfast: coffee, sausages,

a soft-boiled egg.

We’ll find the bakeries

your family ran

before there was a war

to feel close to.





You walk ahead of me

into the grand cathedral.

With my kino-eye, I recognize everyone

looks like you: medieval

and contemporary at once.


We stop for tea in the boulevard

leading up to the imperial clock.

Across the way, three men, street musicians.

Clarinet, accordion, tambourine,

the tune I know from the Hebrew,

at once medieval and contemporary,

at once a peasantry

next to the croon of the regal country. It was

the summer of Wagner

in the country of your ancestors.





You stand before the buildings

that were once run by your family.

You ask me to take your photograph.


When I shoot through the glass

column, the lens flare, the light

so bright I see

black and white

like the photos you’ve brought

from the century before

which you folded and put in your notebook

boyish thing that you are:


If we are far, the war is far.


If I am close to you,

I am close to the war.





I am in the one country

where I have no affairs, where I do not feel

love. When I had no love

I excused anxiety

from the table and sent her

to her room in the attic

where she made no ruckus,

but when I slept alone

in the city of medieval air

I could hear

beneath the ice sheets

the low murmur of her

slow typing:


You can’t get to Salonika

without passing through.





In the last city Rueben lived in

in Europe, I feel present

instead of historic. People

look like him, like my mother,

olive skin and coarse hair.

I ask where the right stones are.

I look for plaques to read.

I pace in and out of the hours.

The plaza where they burned the bodies

like banned books. The museum

tucked in the maze of Salonika.

Hide my face when I weep

sitting on the marble bench:

You would hide

me, you would hide me, you

would hide me,

if we were in a different time.

No one in my family

survived the Holocaust.


Everyone in my family

survived the Holocaust

though none is a Holocaust survivor.


Where were you

when the winds changed,

when you knew he would never be

Greek or Turk

because he was something else

without a nationality

but with a race

threaded thin as fishing line

all over Europe and heading west.

Was it in the shvitz house

next to a Greek orthodox church.

Was it in a letter from the state,

a glance from his blacksmith,

a season of lemons that stayed green,

a lightning storm on the coast

of the city where so many bolts hit

at once, I had to believe in Poseidon.

Was this town Greek or Turkish

when he left. Was he a Turkish boy.

Were there poplars to swing from in the yard?



Yiddish. Hebrew. English. Hide


below deck, barrels of olive oil,

until you get to port.

Hide your face. Speak in Greek.

When they offer ouzo, ask for one

ice cube. When they offer yogurt

in the morning and they’ve already brought

ham and bread, say efkaristo.





You can’t leave Salonika

without passing through.



You can’t go back


[to America]


without passing




Lisa Hiton holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Boston University and an M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Linebreak, The Paris-American, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Denver Quarterly, New South, and LAMBDA Literary among others. She has received the AWP Kurt Brown Prize, the Esther B Kahn Scholarship from 24Pearl Street at the Fine Arts Work Center, and two nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook, Variation on Testimony (CutBank 2017). She is the Senior Poetry Editor of the Adroit Journal and the Interviews Editor of Cosmonauts Avenue.