Tereska Szwarc Torres
Even if you converted to Catholicism—
as my parents did for my sake as a child—
not good enough for the Nazi monsters
in the Paris they’d settled in after Poland.
So we fled to Portugal, London;
by then, I was old enough to enlist
in the Free French forces; I met Georges,
and fell in love; if only he’d not
attempted that last mission.
After the war, I tried to kill myself.
The Germans had their victory over me,
and I’d no child in whose face I could see
my darling. Luckily there was Meyer,
a friend of Papa and Mama; a companion,
not the love of my life: there can be only one.
To ask for a second, to be greedy as a Nazi.
Like Scheherazade and the Sultan,
but without the taint of terror he’d kill me,
I entertained Meyer with stories of serving
with other women, watching them fall
in love with men and with each other.
Meyer begged me to write these tales.
Such a fuss over so innocent a novel:
Americans calling Women’s Barracks salacious,
unnatural. Let them witness the Nazis;
they’d know what unnatural really means.
Not as in the mafia buying
into a legitimate business;
but as in two friends ironing
wrinkles out of hundred dollar bills
ahead of their trip to Myanmar.
Two lovers of the tropics: they’ll trek
in steam-fecund national parks,
visit holy Buddhist shrines, walk
exotic cities, and relax at a resort
in a lake reached only by boat.
All of that costs money,
and not a business in the country
accepts credit cards or has ATM’s,
and merchants will take only
hundred dollar bills less blemished
than the faces of super models, crisp
as the uniforms of the junta’s elite.
Any crease, any stamp or ink-writing,
any crimp or smudge, and the Franklins
will be tossed back like fingerling trout.
So El has spent all night laundering bills:
merchants and generals with their hands out.