Hiding from me at bedtime, my daughter
sneezes and giggles from inside the wardrobe.
I wonder where she is, I act. Pretending
not to see her four small fingers clutching
the door but, fearing the dark far more
than she does me, she surrenders. I gasp
in mock surprise. Soon she will be sleeping.
In Germany once
whole families hid in cupboards
while friends pretended not to see.
But, seventy years on, most would say
forget, forgive, let ancient horrors be.
Me? I am reminded tonight of the mother
who, on hearing footsteps on the stairs,
hurried her children into hiding; four hearts
thumping in a wardrobe.
Like mine, perhaps her daughter
would have giggled had she sneezed.
Sneezed and giggled, giggled and sneezed,
sneezed away four lives.
I smothered her so the others might survive.
It was Thursday, the ninth, in nineteen thirty
Nine. November, she says, I remember, thinking
even then how all her little movements
were as earthquakes when matched against
the stillnesses to come.