I’ve been thinking about intergenerational inheritance of
guilt in the families of perpetrators,
M. weighs in a voice message to me, her Jewish friend.
For example, after the Holocaust
(We are always talking about the Holocaust because of the anti-racism and genocide education program where we met, digging through history in Germany and Poland until we were coated in dirt and spent years writing letters to each other – she in Germany, I in Canada, then both of us in England – toiling to clean the dirt out from our insides.)
but she interrupts
her reflection on the way descendants
of perpetrators may lug guilt
like an albatross
necked about their ancestral pasts, how shame
as other agony can be inherited, to remark
that an olive
under the fridge. I imagine
the olive jar
the cell phone
the memories now over five years old
and still clawing through
alongside her empathy
unfurling across the line and
to recess the heart’s intimate gatherings
as it rolls recklessly
Listen to Anna reading ‘An olive rolls under the fridge’ (1:23).
Anna Veprinska is a poet and scholar. She has published the books Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan 2020) and Sew with Butterflies: poems (Steel Bananas 2014). She has had poems published in 8 Poems, Echolocation, Labour of Love, and Cherwell, among others. She holds an award-winning PhD in English from York University.
© text and audio 2020