By VANESSA WALTZ.
Anne on the Square, 1940
Squinting, she looks up.
She greets the camera with quick and ready smile.
She bends down on the neighborhood square, revealing knobby knees.
She crouches close to Lies, who stands to shyly reach and brush hair from her face.
In the City
The soft rainy substance intermingles with real rain.
It patters down on rooftops and the occasional windowpane.
It falls amidst conversation remnants, happening nightly:
Persons talk, laugh, kiss, the last ever-so-lightly…
“…not taking offense at a flirtation, a kiss, an embrace, an off-color joke…”:
These words cram into the dank quarters of a lopsided annex building.
Tunes carry courtesy of evening radio programs all up and down the crowded street:
A delightful night at the theatre concludes, and love-struck couples plan again to meet…
“…a wonderful concerto by Mozart… Eine kleine Nachtmusik…”:
These words follow a radio concert heard alone, for one of the first times, with a boy.
Persons shrouded in the forgiving glow of streetlight joke merrily:
Persons run from the rain-like substance flitting down (verily)…
A train starts.
Nearby, fingers collide harshly with elegant piano keys.
Rainy remains of human ash fall to the ground, unmissed, and with ease.
By then, Anne has escaped.
I must admit, there was a certain grace to it, albeit a frenetic one, I found
the sometimes stoop-shouldered,
shuffle into the cattle car
a half-twirl in place,_____________________an executed
pirouette as all crammed into the car
woman with child, woman who was with a child
man ….with …………………………..…a family
everyone danced into their crowded ________“places, places everyone!”
stragglers rotated this way and that near the open car door, seeking a last resort
a generous smack from me, and stragglers got it right soon enough
those lucky ones, the ones with special needs
crouched by the slats, lolling tongues already lusting for water
the ride would be over soonest for them
a month from tomorrow the day
shuffled, the last shuffle
in the camp
on my watch
from a crowded, centralized section of living
into a car that would transport them to a
camp with streamlined amenities
chamber-sized accommodations available straightaway!xxthe same day, even!
a nice place to live, accommodating to the right crowd:xxxthose with special, gaseous needs
who actually didn’t live there year-round:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxless than ten minutes, I knew
ah, there was the rub,
but first there was the shuffle
I want to write just now to thank you for the material things you’ve brought into my life. Thanks to you, A, this last decade has been for me fairly worry-free, without major stress, and, on the whole, without major strife.
I must own that I realized what it would take to win you. It was so easy to manipulate you, my love, back in ‘32. A would-be suicide via a simple gunshot to the neck? It wasn’t hard to do at all. Then it was anything I liked, including you, at my beck and call. Oh! I may not have mentioned this in my letters before. You know I am without friends, in and out-of-doors. (Or so the architect Speer puts it.)
Truth be told, I’d rather my state (Speer, ponder that!) than the possibility of having not known you, my gentleman of a certain age, often carrying a felt hat. The sentiment above? You ought to remember that! Though my father does not completely approve of you, A, you know of what petty consequence this is to me. Why fuss over flesh and blood when there is a chalet to consider, and nude bathing?
From our first meeting, I swore to follow you anywhere—even unto death. This promise, I swear to you, will be kept. In the meantime, please stay alive, my love, if you can. Keep me happy yet.
Vanessa Waltz attended Lincoln College, Oxford, and received her MA from Middlebury College in Vermont. She writes essays, poetry and fiction. Her essay on the continuing impact of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series was published by the LM Montgomery Literary Society in the United States in 2017. A narrative reflection on Anne Frank in words and photographs was published in Yeshiva University’s PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators in New York in 2016. This is her first appearance in The Fortnightly Review.
A post-script from the author: ‘It may be of interest to Fortnightly Review readers that the “shuffle” in the poem took place nearly 74 years ago; on September 3, 1944, the last “shipment” of Jews, 1044 total, left Westerbork transit camp for Auschwitz. Anne Frank and those from the Secret Annex were among them.’