Bone Woman

bone featured

On Yom HaShoah, Gloria Tessler dedicates this poem to her grandmother Irma Kien, who was murdered in Riga.

Bone woman,

I am woman of bone.

lone-woman, my eyes are stone.

I break easily, small fissures

have marbled me like cracked china.

Do not expect me

to sing for Old Zion

under the sad willow

The fossil-flesh recalls

its undulations

that moved men

and grew children,

Women of Israel,

I take the measure

of your acanthine flesh,

on its spikes I have grown my soul.

I am your Auschwitz skeleton.

Lipless, I grin beside rows of spectacles,

that catch the light like dull students,

And I wonder if they see me,

those people with their Rolex watches

and mobile cameras.

Can they see my doll eyes,

dark as agate, my toe joints a-dangle?

They blink for the photos, they cannot help it,

for here are cyanide cannisters,

and there, the serpent coils of human hair.

The visitors blink and smile at the future.

At Auschwitz  the clocks have stopped

in the clutch of the dark season.

they have airlocked time so that I may move free

within my winter. My eagle flight

has landed; I touch base in ice wadis

that will not thaw.

Yet to amuse you I would wear

a lampshade on my head

and dance for the festivals,

as we did, when we threw sweets to children

just for the joy of watching them run,

for the joy of knowing the flesh of their laughter.

If I could feel, I would dance now,

a rich dance in a place of privilege;

undulating; veiled I would go, like a harem girl,

dipping into her erotic memory.

And with stamping feet

I would slide the earth back under the sky.


Gloria Tessler is a journalist, author, playwright and poet. She is the biographer of Lady Amelie Jakobovits, and her two plays, The Windmill and Unveiling Hagar, both on Jewish themes, have been performed on the London fringe. She is presently obituaries editor at the Jewish Chronicle and art correspondent at AJR Journal. 
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