Hannah Szenes by Emma Hoffman

I had heard about you maybe

once or twice, we have no real

martyrs but you came close,

your image posted on the board.

A salute,

a smile,

utter conviction

in your cause, what a good Jew.


They tell us you sang the psalms

when the guard placed you against

the wall,

your eyes covered in thin

cloth, hands pinioned in

a rough way

yet joyfully humming the Aleinu,

“He is our God, there is no other.”

We nod,


answer, “how true.”


A confined lioness upon a pyre

that burns,

consumes, never to die

you were pregnant with cadence,

rhythm, spirit pressed up against

your lips, kissing the fallen book

never to meet dirt again,

how true.


Along the Danube all were confused.

The fitful pop of a gun,

the descent

into the rushing waters, carrying

away the day’s trash,

trash like you.

The water’s a whore, unclean.

Bathing in the Balaton, azure in hue


You were so pure,

Lily white with eyes

of amber,

mouth only moving to praise

and bless the executioner.

You burned with such light,

brilliance like I’ve never seen,

blinding oranges ripe with golden sparks,

an exploding Sabbath

how lovely a hue.


I’ll paint your grave with blues, whites

bright as the Carpathian snows, silvers,

greens, but not with stone.

No, not with

the color of grey uniforms, cobbles along

dreaded promenades,

lifeless little ghettos

and towns. Instead I will give you

poetics, impressions,

strokes of the life you never knew.