During World War II, Lily Brett's parents Max and Rose survived six years in the Łódź ghettos in Poland, before being taken to Auschwitz concentration camp where they were eventually separated. It took them six months to find each other again after the war ended in 1945. Brett was born in a displaced persons' camp in Germany in 1946. She was aged two (1948) before her parents were able to leave Germany and emigrate to Melbourne, Australia.

 

Displaced

I was born
in a displaced person’s camp
and have often felt displaced

although
I don’t think
you could tell

when I put
my perfectly symmetrical face
in place

they say
I look like a Madonna
or the Mona Lisa

I don’t know
if madonnas despair
or gasp for air

in strange locations
in spaces that are
too big too small
too dark too tall

do madonnas
check their front door
four times before being assured
it is shut

and do they
after securing the handbrake and gear stick
rush back to the car believing
it will slip downhill

I wonder if madonnas
have to hide
when their children
climb tall slides in the park

or can madonnas
walk in the dark
without imagining
packs of attackers

I comfort myself
maybe the Mona Lisa
wasn’t always at ease.


Lily Brett