Amsterdam (excerpt) by Megan Fernandes

amsterdam licensed

Amsterdam (excerpt)
by Megan Fernandes

Sometimes the mythologies of a city are true—
like when I see a blond man bob for red apples
in the street selling records side by side with a black cat
wound in a cushion, deep in dream. Josh says
he does not want to go see Anne Frank, that this kind of tourism
depresses him, the one where the demonstration of grief
is like a voyeuristic tug at suffering
that is not yours to possess. How do you eat after that,
he seems sad today. How do you stay alive.
When he was young, he visited Auschwitz and told
me not to go because it had a gift shop and that
made him angry and nobody knows how to grieve
in public, how to make public space for loss
unless you can make money off of it but really
there is something else to his anger, the child
abandoned, the residue of a young girl’s life turned
into a petting zoo—this he cannot take.
I have become like my mother where I don’t
need sleep in a new city anymore, immune to
time shifts, I just wander and buy fruit
and almonds and a good loaf
of bread and today, some fresh juice, skipping museums
though I want to go back to see Anne Frank’s
house this time, because this time,
I am a woman and last time, I was a girl
and when you are a girl, all you see is another girl
and when you are a woman, all you see is history
careening towards a girl who you cannot protect.

Read the poem in its entirety at poets.org.

PHOTO: Anne Frank house and holocaust museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Siraanamwong, used by permission.

NOTE: The Anne Frank House is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, in central Amsterdam. During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of a 17th-century canal house, known as the Secret Annex. She did not survive the war but her wartime diary was published in 1947. Ten years later, the Anne Frank Foundation was established to protect the property from developers, and the museum opened on May 3, 1960. The site preserves the hiding place, features a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, and includes an exhibition space about persecution and discrimination.  Millions of people visit the museum each year. 

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