Mother and Daughter with Apples and A Shoe
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER WITH APPLES
In the attic at 6 De Lairessestraat,
skillful young men work under low light.
In their hands: pens, carbon paper, blades.
An attic in Amsterdam, 1942,
where the false identity cards are made—
for Jews, or men
slated for forced labor in Germany.
Small apples drowse uneaten on a table;
a thin woman is hungry but will not eat.
With her daughter she has come for cards.
Her husband has been taken.
In the attic, a good man in a black sweater
braces her with his large hands.
He is giving her all his strength
to keep her from shaking.
She has just cried and, in a moment,
will cry again. Her daughter
looks directly into the lens,
the beginning of a smile on her lips:
sitting sideways in a chair, her hands
rest calmly on its curved back.
Shocking how light she looks,
how composed in her knitted sweater.
Rarely has she had the chance
to smile for a camera. She knows
she is pretty and one day
will be beautiful. The camera
pulls her into the future.
She is beyond the still life of the table,
the wreck of the present. Beyond her mother.
She flirts with the eye of the black box.
Yes, she is vain—a vain child,
a gorgeous vain child in the attic
of 6 De Lairessestraat. The mother cries,
but it is the girl, beautiful girl,
who adheres to the rules of tragedy -
arranging her clear face for capture
so that we may see her disregard
apples, blades, teacups, the lost mother,
the card with her new name
that will not take her very far.
Winter, and the Serbs have won.
Every Muslim gone, every mosque
disappeared without a trace.
Winter, and the graves are dug,
the graves for murdered Muslims.
The earth is very hard.
Young men dig with shovels
borrowed from mothers
who no longer tend their gardens.
One long pit,
hurried to house their enemies.
Hurried, the hands of a young boy bleed.
They think the earth is empty,
but the shovels shush
at what is found.
we were digging up bones,
a man will mutter and bite his fist
when, in three days,
he recalls this business.
At first, we didn't understand.
Not very deep, bones
already in the graves—
and, now and again,
we found shoes,
They were our own.
Holes for the vanquished
call to light the year
1941: Our own dead,
How much more alive
is a shoe than a bone.
Serbs from the old camps:
forgotten mass graves,
the soil, black as bitter chocolate.
Winter, and the earth is opened.
The dead rivals lie side by side.
They mate briefly.
Then the living,