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APRIL AFTERNOON PHOTO
Young girls laughing, coming home from school,
trillium in their sepia skirts, heads thrown back
in strong winds, long hair waving loose as in water.
The one in the middle grew up to become my mother,
her laughing cut out of her before I was born.
There were no flowers or color in clothes in Ravensbruck,
the women's hair was shorn because there were lice,
and there were strong winds, and threadbare dresses,
and cold, and cold, and misery told and untold.
She kept her head down as much as she could,
and sabotaged airplane parts in the factory where
the women slaved. All she said about that
with grim pride and no small relish was this--
no airplane I touched ever flew.
And she told how she stole potatoes from farm fields
the women were marched through on their way
to the factory, and cooked them in light sockets.
And how she kept saying to her sister, we'll show them,
we will go home. And how she escaped one night--
she never forgot the date, April 15, 1945--
(so much else she wanted to forget)
near the end of the war, when the women were human
shields force-marched ahead of the advancing Allies.
And how she dragged her terrified sister through harrowing
days and worse nights, hiding in abandoned buildings
in firebombed Dresden, the streets still stinking of sulfur,
Russian soldiers raping every woman they caught.
I could not bring myself to ask her.
And after the war ended, how her sister and she rode
refugee trains back towards home, and how she could
not forget the station where two soldiers stood laughing
on top of trains, and pissed on them as they boarded.
And how she held her sister, sobbing in her urine-stained
dress, as they rode back through disfigured, dehumanized
Europe, back to Budapest, where she found nothing--
nothing, her fiance not coming back. Nothing, her brother
not coming back. Nothing, her house looted empty.
Nothing, except her brother's piano, too large to steal,
her great grandmother's Seder plate, somehow overlooked,
some loose papers, a family album, and among the photos,
this, of an April afternoon.
Laszlo Slomovits, Ann Arbor
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