Gnarled by discernment,
Petite as out of a doll's house,
or another dimension where the unicorns roam,
Sort the fast slow food she would rather dignify with a fork,
At a PEN meeting, of all places, where there should be porcelain
- it's cultured, for goodness sakes -
But there is only this plastic box that rattles and shifts like an inmate's tin cup.
She is the only one
A bite cannot be wasted
- once there were just five lumps of sugar left in her whole world.
What would happen when those were gone?
Maybe the unicorns would come,
although, in as much as she held fast to them, she knew one could not think that way.
Her whole town had - now she was one of the few left.
Authors in the room
Anoint one another,
Assuming importance by meeting other significant authors,
the importance of which is so oppressive -
heating and swelling the temples - that one looks for a way out,
Any way out at all.
She, so near her food,
Remains cool and silken
- it's just another association meeting,
Faithfully to be attended.
Those slim fingers,
Of vein-marbled hands,
Are topped by brittle ribbed nails,
Filed to a point like thinly painted fish teeth.
"May I sit here?" I ask.
She looks up,
Across the table
- eating is not a game.
I cannot hear her reply under the drone of transactions overhead,
Only see her by herself,
quintessentially alone, from beginning to end,
The mirror of everyone else - the reason no one talks to her.
I fill her long, ancient ears
With my sad tale,
And she says,
Deflated, I recount.
"You musn't concern yourself about such things,"
In my notebook,
are scribbled in retired teacher's hand
Under my to-do list that never got done,
All seemed once so urgent
- no more, now that I know,
She took Alice in Wonderland with her on the train to Auschwitz.
Part I of a series dedicated to my friend, Adéle Schreiber, who died of complications due to COVID just shy of 100.
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