Survivor: One Who Survives

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Survivor: One Who Survives

The only difference between a madman
and myself 
is that I am not mad.

Salvador Dali

Four or five times a day, steamy baths fog away
her past until the skin puckers, then heavy towels
unburden her. She frees her hair, shakes it until

it caresses her back and thighs: she has not cut
it since liberation, will not allow scissors
in the house. Her husband doesn’t complain any

longer. Early each morning, she stretches clean starched
sheets tautly over the sturdy mattress, then crawls
between them when trains clank the tracks half a mile from

the house. She still insists on accompanying
the children to school, only lately has she
allowed them to return on their own. They keep their

backpacks in their lockers, remind each other to
discard their apple cores before arriving home
so she can’t retrieve them and hide them under her

pillow. She wears long sleeves even in summer. The
children invent elaborate stories about the
blue-black numbers scratched on her left forearm. She still

flinches at the hint of a uniform, and still
imagines an extra point on the gold star on
the village Christmas tree, stares until her husband

liberates her. The children don’t bring any of
their friends home. She goes to bed early each night, and
her husband guards her anxious dozing, smoothing hair

from her face. In the darkness, those voices shout zu
Fünf
while a train without brakes plunges into deep
tunnels winding ever deeper into the earth.

Excerpts from 
Where Lightning Strikes:
Poems on The Holocaust

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

On the Other Hand,

Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs)

Letter to Sylvia

The Day the Snakes Came


Where Lightning Strikes: Poems on the Holocaust

© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
May not be reprinted or excerpted without written permission.
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