‘One Photograph’ – feminist mothering poetry about the Holocaust

‘One Photograph’ is a hauntingly beautiful poem which reminds us about how the Holocaust is made up of micro individual stories. In this case it is about a mother and a daughter. Grief is invoked within the reader through a sad reimagination of what happened to individuals in the extermination camps. In this way the reader is able to fully grasp the horror of it all.

‘One Photograph’ was written by Jennifer Franklin (photo below) who graduated from Brown and Columbia. Her full-length collection, Looming, was published by Elixir Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, The Paris Review, poets.org, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, and Verse Daily. Franklin is co-editor of  Slapering Hol Press and she teaches poetry workshops at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.

This poem is part of my ongoing feature of feminist mothering poetry from the book ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’.

—after The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau

by Ann Weiss

They hold nothing but each other. Fixed

like this forever, mother and daughter—

their love survives: testament to life before

God’s great silence. No one alive knows

their names or will. Maybe it is wrong for me

to mourn them. But I put what remains in a small

pewter frame next to my dead grandmother

and her sister. When you rest your hands

on my shoulders, I think of them—the mother

in her housecoat, blossoming roses, the girl

in her swimsuit, tummy round and innocent.

In the cold cattle car, they had no nest but each

 

other. Human cries around them drowned out

owls in autumn, smothered everything but

stars that watched them suffer. I hope

they were together when they died—that

 

their eyes were the last of what they saw

in this fallen world. Even in the thick darkness

of my living room, I see them: embracing,

always almost kissing

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