Chaim Rumkowski, Judenälteste of the Łódź Ghetto, on Memory upon Arriving
at Auschwitz, August 1944
Thick August heat sticks in the air like a cloud around a rotisserie cooking prime rib roast just
before sundown on a Friday night in the orphanage yard.
That smoke signaled blessings.
The boys dug holes with their fingers, burying beetles, putting pebbles on top,
marking tiny graves with hopes
that they would come back from the underworld, replacing pebbles with coins. But these beetles
crawling out from a heap of ashes, never leave the underworld;
this is the underworld.
They schlep loads of ashes on their backs like men, women and children during a deportation.
The loads contain indecipherable messages, names they mimic sounds of by clicking. If I say my
name loud enough, maybe they’ll click it
back to life
after someone throws me on a pile.
Jodenbuurt* Ghetto After Liquidation, Amsterdam, Netherlands, During the Dutch
Famine, December 1944
Silence looks through cracks
in walls where pairs of eyes
once watched lovers’ naked bodies
horripilate and blanket themselves
the way some bat species sing
during autumn to attract a mate,
shrouding themselves under
another’s wings to survive winter.
Wind is lonely as it searches
through rooms, extinguishing
Near stranded houses,
wooden synagogues stand
empty except for wooden arks
filled with lambskin paper rolled up
like hair on curling irons ready
to unravel ancestral stories like eugenics.
Cold, the kind that embraces hunger,
listens for silence, desires crackles,
and invites gentile skeletons to shul
with kindling constructed walls,
luring them towards Torah scrolls
made of tinder with words foreign
as fire to a riverbed.
*Jodenbuurt means “Jewish neighborhood” in Dutch.
Author Bio: Liz Marlow holds an MFA from Western Michigan University and an MBA from The University of Memphis. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, B O D Y, The Carolina Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.