Yvette Neisser

Revisionist History

In a world without Hitler,
the synagogues could still be standing,
still filling with worshippers
on Shabbat mornings. My grandfather
could have stayed in Germany,

the great house in Frankfurt
could still belong to our family.
My father could have grown up there,
sliding down the wooden banisters,
listening to piano symphonies
float up from the music room.

Gas chambers never invented.
Dachau, a nice place to visit.
My aunt’s first word, not Achtung.
“After the war” not the line
demarking the moment
when my grandmother
refused to speak German.

I could have read Rilke in the original.
People would be able to spell my names.


Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri (Settlement House, 2011) and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, and Split This Rock's The Quarry. She is a founding Board Member of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and has taught writing at George Washington University and The Writer's Center. By day, she is a writer for international development programs. To read more by this author: Four poems, Vol. 12:2, Spring 2011 Langston Hughes Tribute Issue, Vol. 12:1, Winter 2011 Audio Issue, Vol. 9:4, Fall 2008 DC Places Issue, Vol. 7:3, Summer 2006