in memory of Frau L.
This blanket of dark; perfect conditions
for our latest trip to the siding together.
A woman can’t see what’s next to her nose
as we clamber down, clutching bags and each other
by the elbow. Mind out,
it can’t be far from here. Shush.
There’s the pump. Our luck’s in alright:
we missed it by that much….
Move on again. Ducking and diving.
That stretch of cobbles
and then the passage. It’s lit up for once.
Now we inch along the middle
of the road, feeling our way forward
step by cautious step
till we reach the brewhouse by the gate.
Will the guards be asleep yet?
Better hang fire. See how the land lies.
Oh hell! Here comes the thunder
of great big boots. If we’re spotted,
let’s say we just fancied a little saunter.
Finally the coast’s clear
and we’re at it without wasting a second.
Already our bags are half-full
when a sudden door swings open.
Pure deadly light leaps out
all round us and we’re done for.
Hearts pounding in our throats, we run
for it. The game’s well and truly over
unless… Could there be extra time?
Thank God – it seems that no one’s spotted us.
Should we be content to slope away
with our bags half-empty? Don’t be ridiculous!
We’re getting straight back to work.
A Berlin girl doesn’t admit defeat.
She stands firm, sticks to her guns
and never surrenders. We shall not retreat.
Taking new heart, we edge up a second time
(isn’t Fortune supposed to favour
the brave?) towards Coal Mountain
that magic jewel-heap. And there we savour
victory, stuffing our sacks right
to the brim with hard-won treasure. Such
heavy riches. Staggering, arms almost breaking
with the sheer weight of our catch,
we reel home. Where everyone’s gobsmacked
to see the glorious loot that we’ve brought back.
Rose Scooler (1881-1985) was a German Jew, whose early life was one of privilege and material comfort. She wrote this poem during the winter of 1944-5, while a slave labourer in Theresienstadt
Sibyl Ruth is Rose Scooler’s great-niece. Her translations of Rose Scooler’s Thereisenstadt poems will be published by Five Leaves Press in 2017. She sometimes tweets at @SibylWrites.
Living Above Ground
to have bird feeders
on the balcony
I am withering
down the main drag
on humid nights
squealing tires anathema
to my wintering heart
a skyscraper cages
the harvest moon
freedom comes sooner
for some than for others
my third floor window
with snow on their backs
the warm blood of stones
Debbie Strange is an award-winning Canadian short form poet and haiga artist. Keibooks released her first full-length poetry collection, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, in 2015. Debbie’s haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding, is forthcoming from Folded Word.