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poetry A Fragment of the Quilt

“After living 60 years…as a Black man from Jamaica,” writes poet Geoffrey Philp, “a DNA test … [revealed} my Jewish ancestry. I am astounded by the endurance of Nazi propaganda and the need for constant vigilance.”

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A Fragment of the Quilt

By Geoffrey Philp

Sometimes I wonder which badge

I'd have been assigned—

red for political dissidents,

black for the “Rhineland bastards,”

a yellow star as a Mischlinge, Second Degree,

or purple with the other Jehovah's Witnesses,

although they were beaten 

with clubs on the other side

of the Atlantic in Klamath Falls,

Oregon, because they refused

to salute the American flag

or to kill their brothers and sisters

in Germany, who went to church

on Sundays wearing belts,

"Gott mit uns," and murdered

the helpless on Monday.

Would I have had the courage

of Wolgang Kusserow, who before

he surrendered to the fate the Fuhrer

had designed for conscientious

objectors, could write to his family,

“We know our faith will be victorious,"

and repeated Psalm 83 under his breath,

"O God, do not be silent;

Do not keep quiet or still,"

before he stepped into the courtyard

of the Brandenburg penitentiary

to face the guillotine's blade.

Born in Jamaica, Geoffrey Philp is the author of five books of poetry, two novels, two collections of short stories, and three children’s books. A recipient of the Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015) and a recent chair for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Philp’s work is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy in an homage to 12 writers who shaped Miami culture. Through DNA testing, Philp recently discovered his Jewish ancestry and his poem, “Flying African,” has been accepted for publication in New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust. He is currently working on a collection of poems, “Distant Cousins.”