Liz Marlow

Camp Synagogue, 1941

After Camp Synagogue at Saint-Cyprien, 1941 by Felix Nussbaum

Camp Synagogue at Saint Cyprien, 1941 by Felix Nussbaum

Like the man stranded from the group,
not entering shul,
I struggle with whether
to enter or deny my Judaism.

I struggle with whether
the prayer shawl is a baby blanket,
a puerile crutch
always offering comfort,
or a thick hand sewn quilt
only useful during winter storms.

While traveling abroad to nations
burying traces
of barbed wire, leaving a single bone
without the body,
a single shoe without a mate,
I became accustomed
to hiding my star
necklace under my shirt,
the way ravens cache food
under piles of leaves
when competing
for rations.

Do I neglect the powder train
of men praying
in a shack
rather than an elaborate synagogue?
Or do I defy ruin
by wearing my gold star,
the way Hasidic men
wear prayer shawls,
while entering the synagogue:
whether a shack, rows of benches
in a field by a lake, or a mosaic
and stained glass decorated building
with centuries-old Torahs,
while my belief in
G-d is fleeting
like a conspiracy of ravens flying
towards or away from shul?


About the writer:
Liz Marlow’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, the minnesota review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two children.

Image: Camp Synagogue at Saint Cyprien, 1941 by Felix Nussbaum (1904-1944). No medium specified. No size specified. By 1944. Public domain.