Ava C. Cipri

Image from "Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944"

In the Ghetto Museum, the former schoolhouse,  
it's Hana's painting melting the glass; the black
mountains devoured by stark white sky. 
I know she wasn't born in this fortress city, a rest stop
before Auschwitz, Poland. An entire neighborhood, race, 
forced out of Praha. Hana must have walked
beside her pregnant mother to the Gestapo's train station. 
Her father, in his dark suit, drags their belongings in a chest
with his right hand, covering their tracks  
to Terezin. 
                    Hana's brother was born after
her father's last shave. The cream jar empty
and his razor dull. After the shoe polish became pointless
and there wasn't thread to mend anything. April 1945 came
too late. The year our taut American shutters snapped. Still spinning. 
I'm waiting for the number seventeen bus back to Praha. 
The fireflies, each a signal from the field. What do they know
of electricity, and reflection of light? Enough
to hang like blinking Christmas lights
over the ashes in the Ohre River.  

Ava C. Cipri

Image by: barbaragaillewis

Naming suffering, exalting it, dissecting it into its smallest components
– that is doubtless a way to curb mourning
–Julia Kristeva (Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia)

bare living room             the empty bed dominates
in this house distanced                             from relief
her fingers locked around the urn
               without rain she has prepared  
to bury her mother       to follow  
              the sparrow’s flight out
                                         of this house unwillingly
if grief has a sound it doesn't end
it dissipates                  stammers itself out
             like the forgotten wick
             the watch         in need of rewinding
             it moves like the wind behind the kite
the child's cellophane pinwheel
the flags of participation that wave  
              silently from the graves
if grief has a weight it can't be lifted
with everything else                  she can’t hold it  
in her hands and pick up something  
she needs          a fork    a glass   an embrace
and there will be anniversaries
her mother's birthday              her birthday  
her mother's dying day           Mother's Day  
Christmas and New Years
she will pick up the urn              again
             relapse into this urgency
to stop

Ava C. Cipri is a poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she served on the staff of Salt Hill. Ava’s poetry and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in Cimarron, decomP, Drunken Boat, Literary Orphans, Rust + Moth, and WHR, among others. She resides at: www.avaccipri.com

Read our interview with Ava here