RESOLVE

 

Einstein understood that time was relative,

but on this freezing January morning

his walk along the tree lined street

was as long and slow as it ever was.

Under typical conditions, the start

of this walk would trigger his mind

into an interior space where his thoughts

became the voice of God and he controlled

the motion of stars and light photons—

but snow had fallen two nights before,

melted for an afternoon, then re-froze

into an uneven, crunching white path.

The journey to the Institute would take

more than half an hour of treacherous,

careful stepping, and the only thing

he could think about was the Germans.

Precisely a year ago, news and photos

were released that showed the camps.

Skeletons taut with skin. Haunted

eyes. Those dirty striped uniforms.

Piles of gaunt, white bodies in front

of buildings with ovens. They were

his people. Jews. It was why he had

abandoned his homeland to come here

to this frozen town among the pastures.

His breath drifted like pipe smoke.

When he breathed in, his lips chilled.

The chill had settled inside his overcoat

and into his body. Even with his gloved

hands pressed into his pockets, a black

knit hat pulled down over his ears,

a scarf wrapped around his neck,

he was still cold—and to think

those prisoners at Auschwitz had stood

in this same kind of cold a year ago,

waiting to see if the Germans would

return after fleeing with their papers

and stolen possessions in those damned

Nazi sedans, chilled in their tattered prison

uniforms, many without shoes on their feet.

How could he even think about field theory

when they could only think about a piece

of bread that wasn’t too big so that they

would vomit it after swallowing? And now

his friend—a German—wanted him to sign

a plea to take it easy on the Germans.

He would not only refuse to sign it, he would

do all that he could to ensure the opposite:

that their industrial economy stayed ruined

for years. They had shown no guilt or remorse

after being caught. They would only create another

factory of death. How could there be any doubt?

His breath plumed now as if he were running.

The chill only grew worse, the air more bitter.

 

 

John Struloeff’s debut poetry collection, The Man I Was Supposed to Be, was published by Loom Press in 2008, with individual poems in Atlantic MonthlySouthern ReviewPrairie Schooner, ZYZZYVAPN Review, and elsewhere. His awards include a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, an NEA Literature Fellowship, a Sozopol Seminars Fiction Fellowship from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation (Bulgaria), and both the Weldon Kees and Tennessee Williams Scholarships. He directs the creative writing program at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

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