BRANDON MARLON is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 170+ publications in 23 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com.
Destitute refugees craving a haven
discovered themselves foreigners in a foreign land
yet safe and spared, culture-shocked Semites
grateful for remoteness from genocidal Europe
even if desperate for food and housing
while old barracks with bunk beds
were hastily converted into group shelters called
Addled by their alienage, they haunted
soup kitchens during prandial hours,
puzzling over characters, admiring
Huangpu River from the Bund, Cathay Hotel,
and Beaux Arts manses of a cosmopolitan
milieu disrupted on a day hateful and fateful
by invasive imperial Axis neighbors
who soon cordoned them off like cattle
into Hongkou district, a sector restricted,
reserved for the stateless.
An unlikely Judeo-Sino bond was forged there
where strangers and locals shared hardship, where
the chicken liver kreplach and the pork won ton
encountered their dumpling dopplegänger
in proximate tureens and bowls
steaming hot with comfort’s scents.
At war’s end, conquerors retreated and troubles
subsided, parting those who together
had borne woes, had endured mutual foes,
and earned the dignity due survivors.
In days to come, they would periodically
reflect on past trials and fearful years,
fondly recalling erstwhile ties ever
preserved in the amber of the moment.