Raconte mon histoire | Poem
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You, Tell my Story


You, tell my story, for I myself cannot.
I was a child then, this was long ago
Our home was in Saint Paul. My name was Maurice.
Daddy was a tailor. Mother was a nanny.


Our place was very small, but was warm and cosy
I had lots of drawing books, I don’t know how many.
Daddy was very proud to see me draw in them
While himself was sewing. My papa had red hair.


You, tell my story, for I can no longer do so
Mother was beautiful. She wanted me, later,
to become a doctor.
They rang our doorbell furiously. She said ‘don’t be afraid’.


Tell them how they broke into our place
Urging us to get dressed quickly and go
Mother cried so loudly that they hit her silenced.
Downstairs, waiting for us, there were buses.


Daddy wanted to know where they were taking us
But the cop pushed him and made him fall down.
At the Vel d’Hiv, you know that! So you tell them
About all those people, crammed and scared.


I myself cannot do it. It was so long ago
I was holding my breath in the filthy toilets
So thirsty that I sucked the dry taps.
My sister Rebecca fainted in Daddy’s arms.


You were not born then, so today you can tell
You did not have to board those buses of doom
They could not see you, so you were saved
Thus today you can tell.


Do it for me and for my Dad and for my Mom,
And for Rebecca too, and for all those silenced.
For my friend the pianist, small Nathaniel
Who will never be heard on stage at Salle Pleyel


For all the mates I used to play with
In the playground. Kids who could have become
Doctors, accountants, musicians
But who were taken and jammed into those vile cattle cars


You must tell my story! Promise me you will!
I just turned five! And yet, how could I speak?
With my mother clasping me tight against her chest
And knowing that I died in her arms, on the train.

Robert Boublil

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