RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Apr 2

Claudia Serea

When I got back from the Gulag, my father says

I was so skinny,
skinnier than a thread through
a needle,

almost a fold of air,
a shadow,
a soft cough.

We were let out by the thousands:

a sudden call,
here are your belongings,
sign here,
a pressed button,
the open gate.

I walked slowly
as if still shackled,
startled by dogs
and any noise.

Through the train window,
I looked at the world, wondering
if anyone knew where I come from,
if they would let me back in.

I had no illusions:
they wouldn’t.

When I got back to my mother’s house,
I scared her more than any ghost.

She rushed to cook,
but I refused the food.

For days, I laid in the shade,
trying to forget what I’ve seen,

those hands,
those desperate eyes,
those semi-human beings,
so starved,
they risked being shot
for a watermelon rind
picked up from garbage.

I couldn’t tell my mother
why I couldn’t eat.

I just wanted to sleep
without being chased
by German shepherds,

and caught,
and brought back
each night.

I just wanted to sleep,
hidden in a crease of earth,
curl in the ground like a pebble
and forget.

I wanted rain to fall over me,
and leaves,
and snow.

I just wanted
to be forgotten.


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