Of blood and water

Long listed for the WALKING HOME writing competition run in January & February 2022

For seventy years,
five English places
he had called home; 

but within his hybrid blood
flowed secret rivers – Vltava
Elbe, Oder, Morava
– 

names he could barely
pronounce but ingested
in childhood – those Sundays 

his father and uncle met,
and goose-fat dumplings with
sweet-vinegared cabbage 

evoked their birth-language;
and he, an uncomprehending
ghost, sensed their sadness, 

wondering if they wanted
to return home to Prague,
in search of their mother, 

lost in the Holocaust. They never did.
Years later, he stepped off
the train there, walking to find 

the city’s New Jewish Cemetery
and the fallen family gravestone
hidden beneath sprawling ivy. 

He fetched water, let it flow
like a river washing clean
a century’s legacy of dirt 

as he whispered Vltava,
Elbe, Oder, Morava
– until
his name at last appeared.


Read more from the Long List of poems and stories submitted to the WALKING HOME writing competition. Listen to winning authors read their work at a showcase event on Sunday 25 September 2022 (booking details to follow).

Itching to write something yourself? Submit a piece to our Shorelines project, and invite your friends to read it aloud. Join one of our creative writing workshops or keep up to date with all our competitions by signing up to our curated newsletter here.

Tony Horitz

Tony Horitz

United Kingdom

Tony Horitz has lived in East Dorset, UK, for many years, after growing up in Surrey. He’s written poetry for many years, alongside a career in community theatre, educational drama and theatre in education, recently as a freelance director of State of Pl...

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