a mischievous spool of thread;
thimbles wobble in uneven hoops,
needles enter the veins of things.
We rummage through drawers
reeking of decayed Soir de Paris
cologne and valerian drops;
the slipper-hedged dusk under the bed.
There remains the invisible world.
We kneel on the creaking floor
before the painting of a smiling monk,
a lily like a magic wand
tilting from his hand.
With a practiced zigzag,
we cross ourselves: Saint Anthony,
guide us to Grandmother’s thimble
Again we scan
the summits of wardrobes,
horizons of floors;
the precipice behind the couch,
gritty crevasses of chairs.
She gives up at last:
The devil must have
covered it with his tail.
One evening in Auschwitz
the women in her barracks began to pray.
Their prayer grows and grows,
a chant, a moan, a howl —
it carries far into the searchlight-blinded,
electric wire-razored night.
The Kapo rushes in, shouting, Not
so loud! God is not hard of hearing!
And my grandmother laughs.
Then she starts an old hymn:
Many have fallen
in the sleep of death,
but we have still awakened
to praise Thee,
she sings to the God of Auschwitz.
Her voice does not quiver.
Oriana leads a double, sometimes a triple life by the sea, the cold Pacific Ocean near San Diego.