The rallying grounds of Nuremberg

the harmony of artificial lakes
water trapped
with nowhere to run
kongresshalle stands monolithic
austerity of curved fortress
a monumental return to Rome
I am dwarfed

the sun bounces off the harsh granite façade
on vitrified brick
masonry greyed out with the decades
(has it been that long?)

daughters are silent
but I hear thoughts ticking

“what happened to my suitcase Mama?”

purple case left on the side of the road
mishap of family travels
through Austro-Hungarian
mittel Europa
shadowing dictators

what did the bad man do, mama?”

muscovy ducks loll in water
flutter and squawk

(we should have brought bread)

the arena stands totemic
der volk, once bussed into
a spit of bilious anger and
cries of resolve
a fist punch return to empire

birkenstocked mothers push
office workers clutch leather satchels
click shoes on pavement
(do they know what happened here?)

we walk around the caldera walls
power molten
its magma seeps through
volksempfanger radio waves
replaces hearth
replaces heimat
(what happened to knowledge?)

‘dunera boy’ professor
feeds me Heidegger
bauen, wohnen und denken
I dwell –
(a circle is not round)

we head up grossestrasse
Albert Speer
– once Minister for Armaments
– and War Production
trialled in Nuremburg
(have I told my children enough?)
– guilt-bitten muscles tense up
over lunch rostbratwurst, sauerkraut
and more questions –

“what happened to my suitcase, mama?”

der volk: the people
Volkenpfanger: “people’s radio”: a type of inexpensive radio set mass-produced in Germany during the Third Reich
heimat: homeland
bauen, wohnen und denken – building, dwelling and thinking


wrapped tightly in a floral handkerchief for safe
passage in my grandmother’s underclothes
gold ducat
chained to another time
of brides adorned by mothers

heavy woollen aprons
loom, weave and colour
map a place
framed by coins
a red carnation to the side of the face

embroidery on the hemline
each stitch layered
characters of self, markings
the pojas girdles the waist

groomsmen arrive with clarinet and drums
to claim your chest
to barter in jest, coin-filled shoes as interlocuters
was the bride wealth enough?
for a worker in the fields,
hands to knead, bake bread
breasts to suckle

I circle forward
lift dust from the crust of the mantelpiece
deftly sweep the front yard
lay forks on the table
fold napkins, fill the ceramic water jug
icon of the repast

you were the last to sit down,
picked the meat off the bone
what was left over

I wanted to ask you
what was your desire
those conversations in the kitchen
the tea milky and sweet
as you fried my egg you tilt the pan
layer the yolk with fat
you were there when I telephoned the first boy
gave me courage in my teenage muddle

playfully you touched my budding breasts and giggled
in excitement that I too would
experience the caress of a lover
you knew this

the last time I saw you –
lying on your bed
your body, emptied out with pain
a whisper “na Baba chupa”

your gold sovereign
on a chain around my neck
I too was to be married.

Napoléjon (Macedonian: Напољеон): gold sovereign/coin
pojas (Macedonian: појас): belt
na Baba chupa (Macedonian: на Баба чупа): Grandma’s girl

Vasilka Pateras is an Australian-Macedonian writer whose poetry, reviews and articles have been published nationally. She has co-authored Thread, a chapbook of poems (self-published 2021).