Bitchy and bleedy and would very much like to be at home in bed with books and my cat
In 1944, the only way my grandfather could love
my grandmother was by slipping her another piece of bread
at the ration’s table. The SS soldiers had shaved her head
when she first came in, and somehow that hurt more
than the death of her brother and her mother and her father
and her youngest sister, who had blue eyes and blonde hair
but was still too Jewish for the Nazi’s tastes.
My grandmother was all of 15 years old
when she helped a pregnant girl give birth on her bunk bed
in October. The next morning both the girl and the baby were killed,
but the bleated cry of the newborn still echoes
within my grandmother’s bones.
My grandfather was all of 19 years old
when he was handed a gun and told to kill.
He learned that breathing and shooting
were almost the same thing, that the recoil of a gun
feels like an exhale and the release of trigger
is more like suffocation than anything else.
They made love in the midst of a war,
and there was something inherently desperate
in the way the clutched each other under the same moon
that Shakespeare saw when he wrote about star-crossed love.
His lips tasted like smoke and like shadows
and like something hollow, like forgiving a war
and forgiving death because a boy you shouldn’t love
is kissing you in the dark in December
and you are a gaunt skeleton but you are still alive, and this,
this is worth living for.
There’s a thousand definitions for the word ‘cold’
but none is more accurate than my grandmother
on January 27th 1945, when this 19 year old boy
stayed behind, when this child that she was in love with
was shot in the chest by her saviors.
The Russians wore fur hats and thick coats
and they were loud and victorious and these soldiers
thought she was wailing because she was free.
I do not know my grandfather’s name
and I do not know whether he was a good or a bad man
but I think it’s both terrible and beautiful
that it takes a war to show humanity the sort of love
it is capable of producing.
And I’m not
going to say
Because I remember every day.
I don’t do very well at art school. I’ve been improving—slowly, but the progress is there. I got my first A-grade the other day for my project which was nice. I’m going to get a desk, just like the one I had in the garage during high school, where I can make art for hours and hours on end, and do better still next year.