Blue Eyes and Brandy
The Baltic depths in her eyes
meet the cultivated fields in mine.
They swell with tears, but remain steady.
Nearly in her teens,
she knows about the transports of death,
and she knows that by staring at her,
I risk nothing.
Her wavy hair, the color of basswood,
still wears the fragrance from the linden bloom
outside the brick train station.
Her eyebrows, blond and therefore free,
perfect like the arches of Virgin Mary,
the vaulted church on the square,
carry a high forehead above the delicate oval
of her Nordic face.
The partition between her nostrils
curves with the virtuosity of Mozart's crescendo.
My fingers tap the familiar chords
on the handcuff too big for my wrist.
From those lips I could believe
any tale about a superior race.
Her eyelids tighten slightly,
as if she were pouring all her strength
into my gaze. Yes, I will be brave, I nod
as her mother pulls her away,
never looking at me. Is my existence a threat
because I am condemned to death by her race?
as with an apology,
a hand alights on my shoulder.
Curly white hair and a beard
mask a Moses-like face behind me.
No expression, no motion, no word.
The gray stone walls and chimneys
are shrouded in yellow smoke,
stench of burning hair and flesh.
The barbed wire curls in chaotic abundance,
like my own hair in the morning.
A bizarre monument
for some of the best minds of the century.
Nine skeletons in rags,
wearing a yellow star of David,
dig in soil without a trace of vegetation.
When the holes are deep enough to stand in,
the skulls of the grave diggers
are split with their spades.
Thuds of eight cracking watermelons.
We watch in silence, waiting our turn.
In excess, even death is boring.
A blond officer empties his Parabellum
and throws the bullets at us.
The pistol traces a curve in the air
and lands within my reach.
All eyes turn away, but I look at him with interest.
Can I at least feel fear?
I meet blue eyes framed by the refined lines
I know. Could it be a mere coincidence?
"Load it!" he orders in stainless steel German.
I squat down and push one round in the magazine.
"Sehr gut," he purrs.
Now I could easily blow his brains out
before he pulls the trigger of his carbine,
but what would that do for us—
I would make her an orphan of a war hero.
"In den Kopf!" he barks, pointing at the halo
of the prophet standing in his shallow hole.
The old man's eyes look at me from hollow sockets
expressing nothing but exhaustion.
"Don't you have ears, you Jewish pork?"
His baritone rolls into my face.
I close my eyes and pass him his handgun,
holding it by the barrel.
I wait five endless heart beats
for a thud in my chest, a liberating explosion
in my brain. Suddenly I feel a cool splash
on my hair and face, and smell cognac.
"Ja! Give him a souvenir from Alsace,"
laughs his red-headed buddy.
"Gasoline burns too fast."
As he is dousing me,
I throw my arms around him.
He jumps out of my embrace as if I were a leper,
not a twelve-year-old boy.
"Dance for us, ja, but no hugs!"
The freckled uniform guffaws
waving the golden crest of his
cigarette lighter in front of my face.
The camp and the clouds go up in blue flames,
but I hear Mozart.
My wide open eyes gaze through the lit air
into another pair,
blue like raindrops
in the bells of Alpine columbines.