Helen Degen Cohen
Born in Poland, Helen Degen Cohen spent her early years in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. At the start of World War II she fled with her family to Byelorussia. As her parents became involved with the resistance movement, they decided to send Helen to the safety of the countryside. There she was cared for by a Catholic woman. After the war her family returned to Warsaw to find nothing left of their old life. Cohen’s poems have appeared in the Spoon River Quarterly and in Charles Fishman’s Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust.
with a Catholic woman in a countryside
riding in a lenient sleigh
full-away from war
my white-haired "lady saint" and I
out of homespun colors:
We were missed by the storm
mounds of forest meandered past us
fled like calendars behind
nature had to wait, we folded leaves
was like a god-crib carried by
and it hazed the deep green to a waiting green
where animals we knew of kindly
slept unblessed. Our war went still
and deep, around the weightless sleigh.
And now, in a trembling present,
tense with the lunacy of peace
such as it is-a masquerade in blooming
shades of sacrifice, of comfort jaws
and love-drops like the red of war-
I hear, beside the child I was,
pulling her lonely sleigh.