Pat Hurshell

Vienna Charm, Vienna Smiles
And the Gargoyles

 

In Vienna all the other Americans (not the Brits, not even
……..the Canadians) were and are light-
hearted, delighted by Viennese charm. They love the operettas,
……..the funny dialect songs, the operas
that make the audience always cry while they cheer and they
……..love the wine, of course.

Also the schnitzel. Viennese street-smiles are never shy,
……..greetings forever nice welcomes-filled
charm–beams so you know Vienna means Good Will, Jolly Folks,
……..Friendly Facts (except on the buses —
never on the buses – where Viennese faces stay blank, defenses
……..high the way they’ve been taught in
the old carefulnesses, cautious as raccoons crouched bland
……..against strangers, those others riding
too who might know some secret the rider should maybe hide).

In the wine-houses – their name Heureigers – or This Year’s – lets
……..you know these wines are brand new,
freshly pressed for now-imbibing – no bad memories hang around
……..with the grapes for those who don’t
like much to remember what went on before. It’s not as hard

for survivor Jews who came back home to live as you might think.
……..They know what they know, just
like the stony heads of the high-up gargoyles still staring down or
……..out over passersby in the silence

that hovers over all the visitors who marvel at this still-ancient baroque
……..in always-present modernity where
I myself lived once. How odd to think about South Africa and Germany
……..neatly adjusting to their own pasts.
My mother never forgot how she went once to some women’s club
……..In Seattle where Eleanor Roosevelt
explained to the women (I think this was around 1942) that Jewish
……..refugee children wouldn’t really feel
at home in the States so really it was better for them to stay over there
……..with their own families. My family
didn’t take a child either. I was sitting in a Viennese synagogue when
……..I remembered that.

 

Pat Hurshell, U.W. Ph.D. in English, has received Ford and Woodrow Wilson grants for her research on Jewish women and the Shoah;  When Silence Speaks, When Women Sorrow: Rue & Difference in the Lamentations for the Six Million won the U.W. Engl. Department’s Robert Heilman Distinguished Dissertation Award. She taught for the U.W. English and Women Studies Departments from 1978-1997 and is the founder and coordinator of the U.W. Jewish Women’s Lives Project [1986- ]. Seattle-born, in her first life she sang for 26 years in European opera houses  (Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, plus those in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Seattle). Her poems have been heard on Oregon radio’s Literary Café, & published in a variety of journals, including Best American Poetry, 2009. She is currently translating the German Shoah poems of Gertrude Kolmar, Hilde Domain and Rose Auslander as well as preparing a book of her own poems.


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4 thoughts on “Pat Hurshell

  1. Brilliant, as always. But then some might say I’m biased.

    Here, we are quickly seduced by the innocence of the Americans and their appreciation for Vienna’s gustatory and musical offerings, but quickly become uncomfortable by the shadows which increasingly persist to penetrate Pat’s “sunny” musings of a place, a people, and a time.

  2. Bravo. A wonderful melange of the light and shade we all know, and grew up with. Living in Germany, I find that the preoccupation with the past is ever present among the population, but the mode is varied – some can easily converse about “it”, others are less comfortable. Plus of course the added layers, in Dresden, of the fire bombing (Germans as victims) and then the communists. Rather more convoluted recent history, in terms of self awareness, than some on the other side of the pond…

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