LITZMANNSTADT 1941  

Each day she’d wondered who lived in that slab of a
house; climbed its stairs to hot attic rooms beneath
the reddest tiles of all, slipped a little over the years,
but still a roof she loved.
Who owned next door, grey and green, which Emilie
Floge opined was too dark, out of keeping with the
huddle of dwellings corralled between water and the
place of prayer...
Safer than Purkersdorf. Safer than here...

When they press a black spoon to her lips and say
“eat,” she does. When they tear the fur and her dress from
her back, force her to stand like a dead, bare tree
she says, “feel free.”
When they hack at her hair and the pieces fall like the
years of her life, freezing her scalp, brushing both
knees, she’s Emilie, not Amelia clasping that sturdy arm
as they move through the stillness away from the lake
with sun on their faces. God in their hearts...

“There’ll be no shadows, no black-tongued Leyladii, no
man nor beast, no inkling of evil, just a bright holiness,”
is his promise. And then come bells - Angelus domini
nuntiavit Mariae
- uno, due, tre, quattro....
The Church at Cassone re-born...

“Boiled mouse or barley beans? Water or piss? Take your
pick.” But her voice is still, her stomach shrunk while
lice grow fat and the star on her breast has turned to stone;
while that slab of a house and its curious peace, those hot attic
rooms and roof so red, are beckoning, waiting

Purkersdorf - A Viennese suburb where the Zuckerkandl’s home - The Westend Sanatorium passed to Viktor’s sister Amelia. When she was sent to the Lodz ghetto (Litzmannstadt) in 1941, Klimt’s painting of ’The Church at Cassone’ that she’d so carefully hidden, was looted by the Nazis.

1st Prize Winner of the Welsh Poetry Competition 2010,
from 510 national and internationlal entries


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