Poupette was no coquette,
no French flirt.
At seventeen she pedaled her velo from
one end of Paris to the farther other,
delivering news of the Résistance to
Brave, yes. Foolish?
A pretty girl who smiles defers suspicion
at least for a little while.
In her bike basket, a baguette,
aroma more seductive than Chanel,
Poupette herself as fresh and new and warm.
Of course they caught her.
The Vichy police were everywhere,
the Résistance only here and there.
Clandestine photographs confirmed her lawlessness.
The eight months she spent in solitary
she longed for her older sister, who longed for her.
In time both girls were sent to Birkenau
and each rejoiced to see her dear sister.
But soon disease made Marie’s legs swell up
so much that she became unable to walk.
Now Marie relied on her younger sister.
Maybe, said Marie, we didn’t pray
Can anyone ever pray enough?
The ground fog in tatters as if shreds had been strewn
around, and sometimes a shred corkscrewed upward
until it fell again. . . Sometimes the sun
broke through to gild the peeling birches whose
branches cut like whips. . .Marie’s red lips
turned black as midnight and lice colonized
her still body. Poupette was now alone.
After the war, she married and had children
but nothing ever made her happy again.
She had not prayed enough though she had prayed
day after day after day after day.