9

CKŻ, ul. Meiselsa 17 – cafe on the rooftop

3/7/2022

Kazimierz is a walking city. My feet hurt from the long days of endless walking in its streets.

 

A cab ride from the Eden Hotel to the Modern Art Museum adjacent to Schindler’s Museum costs 14 zloty. The cab I’m riding in drives beside a blue tram. There’s a hot-air balloon up in the perfect blue skies, like the one I show my son in his favorite picture book. What is this? A boat! And this? A train! And this? A hot-air balloon. The cab driver says a ride back from Schindler’s Museum to the Jewish Museum will cost 50 zloty.

 

The morning was cool but now the sun is out. I think of my grandfather's fair skin in this sun. I think of his blond-turned-white hair and his light-blue eyes which none of my children inherited. 

 

Four Hasidic Jews pass me by in the street. A red biker lets me cross the road and gently motions with his hand. People here are extremely kind. 

 

I contemplated buying three different vintage outfits. A bargain. The woman in the thrift store doesn’t know where the clothes came from. “Other countries, all around. I cannot tell you,” she says. I want to ask the sales lady if she thinks the dress might have been worn by someone who beat a Jew in the street, but instead call my sister and say: “What do you think of this white dress with pink roses and a puffy underskirt? It’s from the fifties. Do you think it might have been worn by a Nazi?” 

 

All this walking. I stop to rest and sit on the stone steps of a public-looking building.

I’m unable to keep holding on to my grandfather's posture.

 

It's my last day and I try to empty out every last zloty in my wallet: 12 zloty for an iced coffee; 25 zloty for a vegan sandwich; 20 zloty for a tote bag with Hebrew letters.

 

There is nothing for me in Krakow, though I can read all the ancient signs carved in the building stones.

There is nothing for me in Kazimierz, though I can read all the writings on the Remah cemetery gravestones. 

I can read all the Hebrew words adorning the front of Szeroka Street’s restaurants.

I know the meaning of the Jewish imagery placed on the gorgeously designed overpriced hipster sketchbooks in the bookstore in the Popper Synagogue. 

There is nothing for me here, though I can read it all, and you, local reader, cannot.

There is nothing for me in Poland, though it’s suffused with my family’s blood.

 

*

 

Curses inspired by Kazimierz

 

May your culture become a graffiti

 

May your culture become an empty street ornament.

 

May high-school students tour your empty prayer halls.

 

May high-school teachers whisper your gone traditions in the ears of their tired students.

 

May a museum shop sell magnets with photos of the camps where your people were exterminated.

May little cars carry tourists around the streets, their drivers pressing play on a recording near each historic site, with a young woman's voice narrating a

well-balanced tale, mispronouncing some of the words.

 

May the stone marking 35,000 of your people’s lost lives on Szeroka Street become a comfortable smoking spot.

 

May your prayers be reproduced to music played for tourists while they eat chopped liver.

 

May your prayers be used as hipster graphic decor.

 

May a festival be made to celebrate your local history and culture, which have been annihilated, in an attempt to repair what cannot be repaired.