Elizabeth Simson
Sopot Molo

for Tante Ursula

For three zloty I pass through the turnstile at Sopot,
walk out onto the longest wooden pier in Europe.
At dozens of booths, amber necklaces shimmer in the wind.
Swans swim in the Baltic, eat crumbs from chattering children.
The white wooden rails of the pier stretch out to the sea.
In 1939 my Aunt Ursula was eleven,
rode the train to Sopot on holiday,
carried a wicker bag with sandwiches
wrapped in paper, her bathing suit, towel.

A big ship was anchored offshore.
The pier swarmed with men, knapsacks
slung over their shoulders.
Businessmen on holiday, they said.

Back home in Danzig, Ursula opened
the upstairs shutters one night and
a Nazi with a rifle on the street below
yelled "Geh weg oder ich schiesse!"*
She ran to her parents' bedroom.
"I never was so terrified in all my life."
I ride a pirate ship loaded with schoolchildren.
A family next to me eats ice cream. Their toddler tugs
on the rigging, clambers on the brass ship wheel.
"Like A Virgin" blares from the loudspeakers.

The ship surges over the swells. I look back at the pier,
stretched out like a road, its white rails wide shutters
in the sun, dark posts stumping the water below.
The swans take to the air, circle gracefully.

*Get back or I'll shoot!