forgive me mother for I have sinned as if the switch
were my own hand, my teeth electric like stars
or barbed wires running temple to temple / she is dead
and I said nothing / until the first switch clicked
we believed a stay was coming. how could it be:
death for these small
/ we did nothing
of shame, treason not even the charge given
/ how does this happen
she did less, the state’s fabrication, a trick /
the boys pulled away by car mouthing
one more day
until I thought my jaw would break
oh, Julius, did you think the families would relent
and take them in? not with those black stones rolling,
not with numbers so fresh
on so many arms
rosen / roses
berg / mountain
(was it antiseptic, the hallway?)
• (a friend)
they could never have looked at each other
anything else would have required that they be
two entirely different people.
wasn’t an option. though I thought if they gave just one,
even a false one,
it might have saved them, not left those boys
but they were as likely to do that as to turn into polar bears
could you kiss your children with a rotten mouth? send whom
to the chair in my place? no mother dies gladly but the boys,
they know we love them
we were raised to question everything but their innocence.
at night I’d lie in the backyard that took us in
and count the stars that hung like teeth / nobody said
how they died so I thought of her hanging, him maybe
standing before a firing squad. in the movies,
nobody brave dies like that.
• Ethel, again
this is my grave talking. my tombstone, all mouth now
as I couldn’t be then / I think revolution comes in minutes
and inches / I was too small for the chair, they had
to kill me twice / what does that tell you
• Ivy Meeropol
I grew up watching the Picasso of my grandmother
say nothing. I do not confirm or deny
that the photographs told me not to ask
my father too many questions.
until this year, when I split the camera’s eye open
like a half-healed scab, he’d never spoken to the man
who sold my grandparents for a cell key
(how did it sound, turning?)
I am making a documentary of this
red flowered aprons.
elevators with round white push-buttons.
rubber-soled shoes, linoleum, hallways.
the static between radio stations.
anything getting smaller with distance.
(mount: poetic: how
metaphor / nach rosen duftend
how could you know what was coming
wir sind noch nicht über den berg
/ we’re not out of the woods yet)
we really thought we’d make it. when the rabbi came,
I was sure I’d see her again
Julius seemed in better shape so I took Ethel first. her hand
so small in mine
going into it, she knows. knows
going into it, knowing the go
will not be. easy, she goes. the going
an into parallax gone. she. easy. will be
gone, an easy parallax, being. gone already
into ease. an into not gone but parallax, turn,
going, will into knowing. known. she turning
parallax already easing into gone, please, turn,
being not. into the already being being
turn. in a small way, it was as if she knew
the electrodes would slip and death jump twice.
gone the easy parallax, the already not being.
she knew, and in the knowing, nothing
I am making a documentary of this.
when it all started, Stalin was Uncle Joe, stopping
the Nazis. now we’re prey again. remember us
in soft-soled shoes and the kitchen, trying. yes,
like that. quiet now.