Jane’s Poetry: When the Mouth Can’t Speak the Body Will

Jane’s Poetry: When the Mouth Can’t Speak the Body Will


Two years after Father’s release from Mauthausen
[A] and I are born in the USA,
the first and last of a generation.

Thirty minutes after [A]’s debut
doctors drag me into the klieg lights.

Hearing of our double birth,
Father weeps. I am the second,
the extra he never forgives.

Swaddled in Mother’s arms, [A] goes home,
I stay under incubator lights.

The one who swam with me
for three seasons
is held by our big sister.

Before pumpkins are carved,
Uncle [R] picks me up,

brings the stranger to that family of four.
Father, whose rage sputtered before he spent
three months next to crematorium chimneys,

does the goose-step into this little girl.
He does not brand me with numbers

but indelibly marks me different.
This fallen female weeps
from September to September

to September


Four years old,
with his claw-arm he caught
my wrist, dragged me to the water,
my screams pealed as
my heels dug shallow ruts
in the sand.
He walked deeper
in. Ribs cinched against his torso, lids scrunched,
mucoused face pressed
against his chest, mouth pinched tight
to dam the flood, I hung
surfboard stiff.
thrashing waves, I hiccoughed,
coughed foam.
Flooding, flooding.
Then, as if he’d tamed a beast—
chin lifted, Father turned, slowly bobbed
to shore, dropped me
like a hefty suitcase.
Head drooped forward, wobbling,
I stepped around plaid
and striped blankets with bathers,
stared hard at grains of sand that shifted
between my toes,
scouring memory, I reached Mother talking
with my two sisters. My face
must have been illegible
as a shell, I sat, wheezed. Later,
in slow motion I ventured to the edge
of spent waves, filled my pink pail
with sand; its moist weight pulled
my right arm long. Softly I spoke
to my sisters about sand pies,
castles, and wheezed. How often
had I been caught? For each time
I was dropped, then forgot,
and was brave enough to play,
I’ll pin gold stars to her hair,
the girl I was.


Had she known English,
she still would not have told
me or anyone,
Grandpa, who died before I was born,
before Hitler marched through Vienna,
was strange,
a meager provider for their nine children;
dark bread with butter often their dinner.
He was too busy playing cards, telling jokes
at cafes. At home he must have been
mean. Mean to how many?
Uncle [H] and Father
hated him. Strange. He must have been strange.
Why else would Father be a pedophile;
Aunt [K] marry a pedophile; Uncle [H] never
have children though he loved them; their sister, [C],
kill herself as her womb began to bloom; Aunt [G]
threaten suicide, remain shrunken by Aunt [K]’s shadow?
Not one photo of him. No one ever said
his name. What did he die of? When?
At his graveside service did fictitious words
spin sugary masks as they did
at Father’s, Mother’s coffins?
The legacy of pedophilia—how many
generations back? Grandma didn’t
tell me Grandpa’s name.


Asked to climb inside the body
of a hunger-crazed lion to look out through his eyes,
I say No. Never. I don’t want to see,
hear, feel his toying with his prey,
claws alternately retracted, extended,
swat, swat, swat; his tail flailing;
sandpaper-tongue lapping smooth
springbok underbelly, genitalia.
But then I shake my regal mane,
canines, incisors, gently, ungently, urgently
nip the fawn body stiffening to fear-rigid,
my shank hardens. A sudden shift, her body is pliant.
In a throbbing, frenzied rage
lion-me ejaculates.
Seconds later fawn flesh
and slimed vegetation cool my limbs,
I extract my claws and pad across the den,
past the fawn feigning death,
enter my mate’s lair, or
turn back, hunger renewed,
past the silent one, to the whimperer.
My tongue strokes her soft throat.
Her muscles, tendons tense, as though
the hardening shank of a rival.
Blood pumps into my groin, my paws graze
her sealed jaw, claws of my right paw
extend, snap the hasp of her jaw.
As I pump-pound the recesses of her mouth
her small teeth scrape me; each in, out,
like her too tight anus.
In a cascading gush I fill
the back of her throat then leave.
At times, the flash sight of this fear-frozen fawn
catching my scent urges me on,
before her tawny body recedes into reeds.
In pre-pounce stance,
like a giant yawn, my legs unhinge
into a rapid stride.
Her fur in my teeth,
I shake my head left, right, left, right.
Then settle upon her—
frail bones splaying flat
as sapling branches of a banyan.
Her flapping heart,
birch leaves in a breeze,
flap, flap, her short breaths.
Then lift myself off.


Professor [M] I must ask
for the strangest favor
you know the origin of tears

Your heart was also bruised
adult weight on child
pressed into warp and weft

The other day I knocked
on your office door
pushed it open

Like a mother-bird
you flew up and wound
your wings around me
Falling into your smile I knew
if you taught me how to cry
I would not evanesce

In one try I learned to skate
to jump rope swing from a trapeze
I’m a serious student can you teach me

The first time is the hardest
they say after that I think
I can do it on my own

For ten years I’ve practiced
at times a few drops
outside corners of my eyes

that hundred-mouthed giant
had sucked all the rain from the sky

Father’s ban on tears
still parches that
dehydrated child inside

I must water her pinafore-years
backwards-cardigan and slit-skirt-years

A flightless cassowary
dreaming of air currents
a desert cactus seeking floral status

Your arms your smile
might water my arid roots
make tears bloom as forget-me-nots



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