Gifts

Every time Father fails to keep his Saturday visit, he sends us gifts: silver dollars, seashells, Belgian chocolate. Last week, Chris received an original Willie Mays baseball card. For me, jewelry, which I’ve already lost. Today it’s snow globes. My shelves are crammed with enough gifts to make me cry. Lisa Marie Lopez resides in … More Gifts

Inheritance

The unticked box that asks for a baby’s race. The blank birth certificate, filled in a rush the night before the legal deadline. The lace trim of her bonnet for when the scurf dapples the moving place in her head. The fresh skin that quietly forms beneath the smallpox scab and fully healed bears the … More Inheritance

Chance Encounter

Airport Immigration. Similar to IRS, only tougher. The old couple approaching me stood no chance. “Your reason for visiting America?” “Gooder life.” “Better.” “Gooder. Badder was there.” He beamed my way gold-plated incisors, his wife joining. “Family?” “Family?” he echoed. “Hotel?” “Hotel?” “Passports, sir!” He held the passports between thumb and forefinger, three fingers missing … More Chance Encounter

Midnight Visit

On Friday, as soon as they finished listening to Andropov’s first speech as a General Secretary, his wife asked, “Everything’s alright, honey?” “As alright as it can be, love. Go to bed.” On the balcony, he tried to understand why he felt restless all of a sudden. The speech? Checked the time: almost midnight. A … More Midnight Visit

The Showers

I went with my wife on her extended business trip to Munich. Munich gave the Little Corporal a sympathetic ear and the die was cast. A short ride on a modern clean commuter took me to the stop for the Village of Dachau. Dachau was the proving ground organized with clockwork precision for industrialized efficiency … More The Showers

These Sandwiches

All of the wild wild ways my great-grandmother used to have in Poland, before Auschwitz dealings, are still inside of her. My great-babki mainly wants cheeses grilled in bread — she feels she is escaping concentration-camp hunger pains with every bite. She flattens the sandwiches in the back of our kitchen, with an antique iron, … More These Sandwiches

Not This Horror

They pushed the camp’s grating gates open and after a few paces stopped, horrified. They were used to war horrors, not to this horror. We just stood there, hundreds of living skeletons, waiting. For what? I started advancing, my emaciated, naked body not betraying even my gender. I stopped in front of one of the … More Not This Horror

Be Still, Child

“Be still, child.” It’s not a request, it’s a prayer. Her voice is a whisper-rush of exhale to the baby in her arms, held tight against her chest, knees pinched to fit into that cramped space between the walls. “Don’t let him hear,” she says again, praying out loud. The footsteps from the room beyond … More Be Still, Child

Love Story

When they knocked on the door, forced us in the cattle wagons, I couldn’t imagine that I would fall in love there, amidst the greatest of human miseries, an electrified barbed wire between us and black smoke rising behind me. We knew exactly what we were doing the day we ran towards each other, clasped … More Love Story

Yvonne’s Parakeets

“Don’t ask your cousin Yvonne any questions about le camp de concentration!” admonished Sylvie’s mother, as if forgetting that the child had been mute for months. Yvonne was waving from the top of the granite stairs of her house in Bourg-Lastic. She was not the human skin stretched into lamp shades that Sylvie had had … More Yvonne’s Parakeets