Leah Kaminsky

Leah Kaminsky is a writer and physician living in Melbourne. She is a student in the MFA Fiction Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, USA. She was the Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellow for Fiction in 2007 and is currently a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria. She is the author of several books, and is editor of an anthology of prominent physician-writers, The Pen and the Stethoscope (Scribe Publishing, 2010).


IP Picks 2010 Judges' Report on Stitching Things Together.


Stitching things together, 2007

I: Tracing the pattern

I stab the curved needle
into broken skin
pulling edges together
with blue, nylon sutures

II: Alterations

my father was a tailor
on Haufgass in Zhetl, 1931
running his thumb
over loose threads

after he set the pigeons free on May 1st
red ribbons tied to their legs
he sat in Lushinkes gaol for months
urine poured into his Communist nostrils

my grandfather shared a bottle
of vodka with the guard
and put his son on board the SS Moreton Bay
in 1938, before the storm began

we sacrifice everything for our children
father said as he sewed coats in Melbourne
looking down from the window onto Flinders Lane
at men loading mannequins into trucks

while Europe blazed and swallowed up
his youth, his love, his life
he basted coat sleeves
and pad-stitched lapels

III: Pressing the Seams

local anaesthetic wears off
the laceration begins to throb
the pain of the body
split open, returns

Dealing the cards

I: Mizinek*

Fifteen years after father limped down Flinders Lane
and mother drank bromide tea in Bergen Belsen
I was born, an accident of old age
Why bring children into such a world?

I was a good girl then
my parents’ little miracle
their heart and soul and hope

II: Wrestling ghosts

On Saturdays they played
Polish rummy
crammed around the kitchen table in Caulfield
with Gdale and Genia, Luba and Max

the women smoked Craven A’s
the men ate greasy herring on rye
sipping whisky before they dealt

kids would wrestle in the lounge room
evil Dr Schnitzelbaum body-slammed Lewin the Jew
and I was always referee – 1,2,3, you’re out!

ghosts cheered from the sidelines
hidden behind the cigarette haze
no one ever saw them, except me

I resurrected them from the dead
their faces locked away
behind mother’s eyes

and I fell into her world
wanting to be the air
that filled her every breath

III: Shock

In this house, in my room
where I dreamed for years
unspoken words piled up

father sat on the floor
playing Go Fish with me
his crooked leg stretched out

while electrodes forced the sun
of pre-war Poland back into mother’s brain
and she saw a carp swimming in the tub

her mother chopping off its head
mincing the flesh for gefilte fish
served with a slice of carrot for shabbat

did the volts burn the darkness in her
and force my faceless relatives to move on
searching for shelter in another’s haunted mind?

unspoken words piled up between us
silent, like murdered bodies
the what-we-should-have-saids
the if-onlys

* the youngest child (Yiddish)

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