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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Margaret Dornaus

Prayer for the Dead

The ruins of a medieval castle stand on its outskirts. The River Uhlava runs through it. It's ringed by the Böhmerwald. This much I know from guidebooks, but my pen-pal quickly gets to the heart of our ancestors' village. "In the old days," Ragnar writes, "Jews lived there."

cobblestones . . .
a klezmer song drifts
through ancient streets

Ragnar sends me eight 5x7 black and whites: four snapped around town; four of the old Jewish cemetery – a long view of the muddy field he trekked through with the farmers' dogs barking at his heels; two closer views of headstones – some upright, others overturned; the last, a stone engraved with Hebrew. "It seems very likely," Ragnar adds suddenly, "that our great-grandfathers knew each other."

saying grace—
the cantor's voice rises
in a minor key

Years later I decipher the name engraved on the last picture's tombstone. Moshe. Son of Meier. He was, his tombstone says, "upright and pious." His name was Moshe.

passover . . .
a gypsy moth circles
the candle's flame