'Olvidian Rood' by Emmanuela Copal de León
Olvidian Rood, Emmanuela Copal de León, 1999.

 

 

The Pallor of Survival
by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

 

I'm lucky: autumn is flawless today,
sidewalks freckled rust and red, and the sun
gentle. I'll take the back streets to the bookstore—
it's a longer ride—but I avoid the street where
St. John the Evangelist Church faces that seedy
building with a sign flashing "Jews for Jesus."
The last time I pedaled between them I felt
a draft there, a silence so chilling I gasped.

l don't know what happened to Judith Aaron,
placed at the Mater Immaculata Convent in Brussels,
in 1945, after she was repatriated from Bergen-Belzen.
Judith who waited eleven years for some—any—
next of kin to claim her. No one did. We never
heard of her again, after she turned eighteen and
left that very morning, still wearing the convent
uniform, but not the socks and her blouse unbuttoned.

She left on a Tuesday in March. Years after—
from under a bed in the infirmary—I'd seen
what the nuns did to her when she confessed
she had masturbated: bending her over, pulling down
her panties to ram the longest part of an ivory
crucifix into her, hissing: HE is the Only One
Who Can Come Inside You, No One Else, You're A
Catholic Now, Do You Hear?

She didn't let out a sound, not a sigh,
the pallor of survival carved into her face
when she pulled her panties up again. I think
she made it: she was of the stone statues are made of.
I still search—Judith: I can't stop searching—for signs
we made it, you, me and the others, signs I see
in the smallest things: an open gate, a flawless sky,
a leaf autumn carelessly burns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text © 1995, 1999 by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
"The Pallor of Survival" first appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Volume 2, Number 1, "Burning Issues." The work appears here by permission of the author.


Original Graphic Image, "Olvidian Rood" © 1999 by Emmanuela Copal de León


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