Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

Skirted Resistance 
by Ilene Millman

Warsaw, 1943

A certain audacity was required.
I could cover with a meek smile, downcast
eye, a blushing cheek

farmgirl clothing and peasant kerchief
tied around my braided hair dyed bright blonde,
green eyes, a definite advantage

but yesterday, hair in an up-do, fitted-skirt, bold
blue eye shadow, I flirted, held his arm, plied
him with candied Polish pastry.

Prosta Street, the shop windows of my childhood, Fridays
Momma and I bought cookies for my six siblings, Papa, Babcia.
Anatol the baker knew my name.

Now on the Aryan side, each moment’s crisis kicking
in my belly, I stop there, approach the bakery through the dead
movement of Jewish footprints

walking toward a future that isn’t. Burning ghetto streets and pastry scent
the air. Anatol hands me a loaf of country bread,
soft middle cradling a revolver.

Hide a machine gun
at the bottom of a pram, grenades in a potato sack,
forged visas taped to my torso, smile pasted on my lips.

The heart’s skill in survival
we smuggle cartridge clips, Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs
detonators, dynamite under the woolly hat

of their belief we only stood, quiet
in our babushkas
praying and lighting candles against the avalanche.

Bottle of Krupnik whiskey poking up from my basket, tonight
I cycle right up to him, that same Nazi officer meeting me in the dark
behind Prosta Street, put a bullet in his head

Note: This poem is a compendium of the voices of the “ghetto girls”, a group of mostly
forgotten Jewish women who fought in the resistance against the Nazis, amny form inside the
Polish ghetto.

About the Author

Ilene Millman is a retired speech-language therapist. Her book, Adjust Speed to Weather, was published in 2018. Publication credits include Poetica, Journal of NJ Poets, Paterson Literary Review, NewVerse News, and Connecticut Review. In 2022 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She writes from Hillsborough, NJ.