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.
Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing Created in 2002 by Michal Mahgerefteh