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Two Rivers

after Lawrence Langer

When the woman facing the video camera speaks

decades after having been freed

from whichever death camp she’d been dumped in

about how life is for her now,

it’s clear she was never freed, not really,

two rivers running through her,

one roaring, drowning out the other

which nevertheless keeps going

barely preserving

societal norms, those

kindnesses, considerations,

thinking of others, the future of the state.

But the louder river’s stronger. It erodes its bed,

pulls like a muscled eel against the line

because she couldn’t turn her back on what she’d had to do to

not die, the slightest seam left in the water

for so short a time!—like a breath.

Me? I’d have sunk

so readily into the murk

as into one who’d have killed me for a dime. And I did

sink, gave

everything for nothing.

Why can’t I say

what it hurts to know about the self?

—while she can’t not

say it, staring straight into the eye of the lens:

“Love leaves me cold.”

from Skeleton CoastFind more by Elizabeth Arnold at the library

Copyright © Elizabeth Arnold
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Published in Elizabeth Arnold Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.