Elegy for My Unknown Aunt
to the memory of my Zaidy’s first wife and daughter, d. 1941
You were a baby like my own babies,
brown-haired and green-eyed,
the night your father left.
In the hollow beside your mother
fitting your small body into the shape of a father
who wanted to leave; leave the ghetto,
leave Poland, maybe he wanted to leave you too,
girl of my family’s ghosts.
You were a girl like I was a girl,
pictures of me in white cardigans and lace-edged socks;
maybe your mother braided your hair
for shabbos, your scalp, like mine, stretched taut.
Where is your sepia-edged memory?
Abandoned girl, forgotten baby, my unknown aunt.
Child of a fighter, child of red
streaked cobblestones, child stripped
naked in your mother’s arms, her uncovered hair
blazed brown in the sunlight.
There is no waste of ink on your once pink wrist,
not plump like my baby’s, but taut and hungry.
No milk from your mother’s raw breasts,
only a hollow throb for the white moon of home,
for a father, for life
beyond the shower walls.