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On Opening My Mother's Typewriter

My mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany. She fled to Britain in 1939, just 6 months before the outbreak of war and, amongst the few belongings she was able to bring with her was her portable typewriter.

I remember, as a kid, being fascinated by it, especially the strange keys with umlauts, or ones bearing strange inscriptions such as 'Fest-stellen' or 'Umschalt'.

And, later in life, when I realised what she must have been through, I wondered why the typewriter had been so important to my mother, and what she had written on it. Some of her words had (it appeared) been written with such force that the ribbon was torn.

So, in my turn, I wrote something ...

On opening my mother's typewriter

Unclip the silver clasp. Lift off the case.

A tang of oil and ink wafts up from row

on row of keys that stare me in the face,

blank as the eyes of fish. What do they know

about my mother's life? The ribbon, black and red,

is tattered like the flags that flew

above the camps and barracks of the land she fled.

Her father's land. Except her father was a Jew.

What did she write to rip the ribbon so?

What terrors of a refugee did she confide?

Like soil that soaks up blood, the keys will know.

Like blooded soil they hold those secrets tied.

Feed in a sheet of paper, blank and white.

What words are there that I can write?

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8 comentários

Alison Blevins
Alison Blevins
29 de nov. de 2023

What a beautiful and moving poem. Thank you


It interesting to think as you sit there ready to type, what words will fall on the paper. I like to think it would be a message . Well that's what came to me when I ready this beautiful ode to your mother's typewriter.


Membro desconhecido
28 de nov. de 2023

I really like the way the description of a typewriter becomes the story of your mother's life. To me it is a moving and also very clever aproach. Like you touch her finger still when pressing those keys... love it!


Alistair Scott
Alistair Scott
27 de nov. de 2023

Thank you for your kind comments, everyone.

Yes, the poem is written as a sonnet.


Nigel Smith
Nigel Smith
27 de nov. de 2023

Alistair, what a privilege to be able to read and experience your post, the image and foreward alone worth the entrance fee. Your words stimulate both my emotions and intellect, and that for me is Poetry.

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