by Elizabeth Fogle
Psyche’s Sister: Scraps
No matter how our father wishes it, he cannot make us
into men. Three daughters, no heirs – weightless, wantless –
it has been hard in this house. But do you know how hard it is
being your sister?
Nothing can compete with your face.
When you were born, our oldest sister swaddled you
as if you were her own. She doted – she cooed. Even then,
I knew – I am just flesh. I will always be just flesh.
Psyche, you make me just flesh.
Soon enough, I will rot.
I was pretty until you came – a line of suitors out the door,
a beauty that needed no dowry. Now that’s all wilted,
like my face, like my breasts – in your presence,
everything droops and sags.
All I have left
are scraps. You’ve devoured love whole with just
a glance. So easily – all our men have become
yours. Aphrodite’s altars grow cold – people
are saving their flowers for you.
Mark this, sister, vanity will bury you and when
you are dead, not even Persephone will pity you.
You – a goddess
wrapped in pink flesh, wrapped in smoke.
Not even the cattle can love – their wombs
are empty and you are to blame. The priests say
sacrifice is the only way to stop the famine,
the only way to appease jealous gods.
So today we comb your hair. Dress you
in gauze. Hide your shining head
with a veil. We will walk you to
the craggy mountain, turn our backs…
I wished for this, played this scene over
and over in my mind, prayed you would
plummet – lit candles, burned incense,
dreamed your demise, beautiful.
Sister, what can I dream for you?
Apples, plums, the sweetest figs.
You have those already.
Silks, jewels, a crown for your head.
You have those already.
Your house is like no house.
Larks and sparrows.
There is no thirst.
No grinding of bones.
How can any love or longing compete with this?
The only gifts I can bring:
brass and tightened fists.
Or, I can tell you what I see:
A field of brambles when I squint,
your shining face smeared with ashes.
When I blink, there is only grief. Woe.
The Nazi Officer’s Wife*
Your name is Greta (Edith) and you are a registered Aryan (Jew).
Your papers are authentic (false) and you have nothing – your family
gone (dead), your ghetto purged (exterminated), your yellow star
crumpled in a dust bin. You must leave Vienna – if you are caught,
they will punish (murder) you. You hide in the park, the museum,
plan your next move. You stare at Germanic art (propaganda).
In the marbles, you hear your relocated (dead) mother’s voice. She says
go to Munich. It is 1942. Your name is Greta (Edith). You are
a registered Aryan (Jew). So you go. You plunge (assimilate) into
the Reich, bandage Nazi (enemy) wounded for the Red Cross –
stay away from inspectors (spies). You say nothing about yourself,
just in case something of Edith (you) slips out of your mouth.
A German (Nazi) man falls in love with you (Greta), you cook
and clean for (serve) him. He comes home from the munitions (pistol)
factory, he looks (spies) at you through the key hole. You stir
a sauce pan at the stove (oven), become the perfect Aryan frau (isha).
He knows your secret (blood) but ignores it. He is lonely (pathetic)
and you play your part (Greta) so well it is easy for him, he loves Greta
(Edith) so much he forgets. You give him a daughter (Jew) and he is drafted,
marches to the Russian Front. You actually cry real tears (salt)
for him and have become what the internment camp Jews (prisoners)
call a U-Boat – a Jew in Aryan clothing – cold as metal and always
submerged (drowned). You pass (lie). You live (die). Ears and nose
plugged tight as you swim – the sounds of war, muffled underneath
leagues of heavy water. You smell nothing of burning cities, burning
homes, burning clothes, burning skin. After the war, you try to come up
for air – the land, even the sky has changed, turned to powder (ashes).
You wander Nuremburg and search lists of names (survivors),
search masses of faces (survivors). Your family is gone (murdered),
you are the only one left and while they were killed (gassed), you
were in Munich eating chocolate (poison). So you pick up your life –
pocked, ruined; like Munich – bullets, razor wire, your own instinct
to survive (hide) have left it full of holes. You are a U-Boat.
Your periscope (brown eyes) so narrow you cannot even see the horizon –
filled with bombed buildings, bombed cities, all of Europe slumping
like a white skeleton, bones turning to chalk in the smoldering air.