Herr Doktor, see that pretty nurse over there,
behind the glass wall, absently smiling, watching
monitors measure the strange alchemy of my blood
and my guts? The other day when taking my pulse
she asked where did I get my tattoo, and what
does it mean? Buchenvald didn’t ring a bell in her
cute little head. She asked if I lived or worked there.
I worked there all right, digging-while-dead, pushing
into a dark common grave those lucky enough to have
bitten the dust. “O!” she said “Mr. Guttenberg, with
your name … I didn’t realize …” In ’45 the Ruskies made
the same mistake and took me to Transnistria to help
rebuild Mother Russia.
Look at me! I make a pretty German prisoner, don’t I?
Olive skinned, short like a champagne cork,
with an Einstein hairdo. Luckily, Guenter, the guard
from Buchenvald, was there too, and he didn’t want
to share the new camp with a Jew, and I was sent
home, not that home existed anymore.
Herr Doctor, this is too much of an irony. Years ago
another doctor, in another world tried to kill me
almost the same way you are trying to keep me alive.
Then I lived, patched up a new life, work, wife, kids.
But now? My wife is long gone, the children have
grown, one to be killed by the Communists, one
to run away to America, build a life in a world
I don’t know. I have photo-grandchildren. We don’t
speak the same language, don’t pray the same prayers.
Herr Doctor, stop the needles, take away the mask,
and the tubes dripping chemicals in my veins, there’s
no one left to listen to my jokes, to my fables, no one
to understand where I’ve been, who I am. I have lived
the sorrows of a hundred lives, it is time
I go upstairs to compare notes with Job.
—from Rattle #15, Summer 2001
Ana Doina: “I was born in Romania when the country was under Communist regime. Due to political pressures and social restrictions, I had to leave Romania in 1983, seeking political asylum. I am now an American citizen and live in New Jersey with my family.”