—–—In memory of Charlotte Delbo, 1913–85
The most handsome man we have ever seen appears at the gate
and pulls a drag on his cigarette. He stands apart
from the gestapo, huddled nearby in trench coats and fedoras.
We look at the man and he looks at us.
Rows of heads, we walk together in the dark toward
the entrance that would be our exit, but we do not know this.
The man looks at our faces, ignores our shrunken bodies and swollen feet.
He must doubt that we are real, but he does not look away.
Are you the French? he asks us.
The trench coats and fedoras turn their backs.
The man wears a white armband with a red cross on one arm,
a blue one with a yellow cross on the other.
French? He pulls another drag and holds in the smoke,
though his cheek continues to twitch.
Now, we are going to Sweden, he says.
We gaze back at him with blank faces.
Then, slowly, we move through the gate.
The flowers. The air. His human voice.
Children that run through the train station.
So we French women left Ravensbrück that night—
I came back from another world to this one.
I brush my teeth in the mornings now. Put on lipstick
and work in an office. Yet I seldom talk to others.
Memory returns me to the threshold of that gate—
and I no longer distinguish between this world and that.
Jane Saginaw is studying for her PhD at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her memoir, Because the World Is Round, was published in 2022 by Deep Vellum.