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The Tree That Loved Everyone

by Deborah Schwartz

This morning, in the mirror, I hated my body.
I thought of the bodies piled up, one on top of another
In the mass graves and thought about the sin of self-loathing.

Bags under my ass, arms and nipples.
In the sun absorbing what I need to survive
Ready to walk on to the wharfs
Near the chained-linked punked-out parking lots of the love
That is given us all the while we are hated.
One woman that I am
most of the time pretending not to want
To drink bottles of wine and glow like an orange in a body that doesn’t hurt
More or less the way all bodies hurt.
For the cruel stick to go away to come back mended so that the artisans
Who built the stick in the first place are betrayed by its beauty.

Sleep in the bed.
Catch the train.
A fire in the window
That appears like a face.

Touch the essential arm of my body
Into smoke rings and remember the tree that everyone loves.

Not a cabinet holding salt and a tumbler
Taken down to be filled with water.

In Smargon there never was a river
With girls mostly unclothed but not naked,
Two floating on their backs holding hands,
One swimming toward the bank near the tree.
They are so beautiful and round and will grow into the ground.

The train’s windows.

Thank you for the tree.
Thank you for leaving.
Thank you for returning.
Thank you for burying the pliers in a place
I could find them
so that I may fix the broken shutters.

Thank you for deciding one way or the other.

Somewhere is a real laugh.
Somewhere is the shoe that I left.

I miss the night with my lover in the bed where she has also
Slept like the dead, like the rocks of a river.

The morning is a brutal time—alone and exposed in a light that the night clothed
As if we were all left in little rooms.

This one has a mirror.
This one has a salt shaker in a cabinet.
I pour the wine that’s not mine in the house that’s not mine
While my body gets bigger and bigger. A house.

This piece of bread is for you, father. This glass of wine is for you, mother.
This shoe heel in the dirt is for father. This flock of pigeons, for mother. This steeple. This brick wall. This plaque without a name. This wind. This flutter. This rain.
My shoe in the dirt is for you. The dirt is for you. This piece of bread is for you, father. This wine for you, mother.

I wear my clothes to fit my body.
Shot glass heavy as a lamp, the cigarette smoke in my lungs.

At the bar, we decide that breaking into the Vilna ghetto library
Would be an easy task. A ladder and the night would suffice.

Without the books, the documents, the certificates, I have cherry compote
From the tree in the courtyard that bore her throat through the whole dreaming
Of the adults and the children who were not dreaming.

I just wanted to change my shirt so that it would be clean and just for the occasion.
I just wanted to hold the place in the book so that the blind reader could find her way and then use FaceBook to place the city back there.

After the extermination, we built the new city on top of the old and the few who escaped in the woods came back to find their faces in the trains, burning.

There is such articulate youngness in their voices, and in their congregation.

We will break into the library. We could interview everyone who passes the gates of the old ghetto asking them if they know where they are and what happened here. We could take the books out of the library and look at the shapes like faces in the trees, the trees that love us no matter what sin we committed, what we feel about ourselves and others, and how we got here.

If we board the train, if we leave our bags in the musicality of the dirt, if we roll on the floor with laughter, is that not some kind of wondering which is some kind of yearning which is some kind of blessing which is some kind of forgiving which is not purification but is a way to curse hate.

We would wonder who we were,
And who we were. We would become siblings and wonder.
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by Deborah Schwartz


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