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Excerpts
Anita Dolman -
Excerpt from Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets

Shoes

She tells stories about the war;
the man who hid in their attic that fall,
until the SS found him and the trains took him away
to the work camps, she thinks, but there was no telling
and nothing anyone could have done.

And, of course, there was her cousin, or someone’s cousin,
who got his balls blown off, shot clear off, right there in the front yard
and who died, just hours, just minutes or seconds or days later, bled to death,
somewhere around the middle of the war, maybe 1943, sometime
when the schools were closed, which they were then, often.

But not, she thinks, when she fell in the road,
twisting her ankle in the crater by the bridge;
the shell of the bomb lying there, like a target, intact
and she wanting to get closer, to see it, because she was 12
and had never seen one like that, unshattered, just lying in the road.

But the scars, those are from her shoes, too small for growing,
worn and worn, squeezing her toes together, shifting their architecture, so that now,
five decades later, she can’t find shoes that fit, that don’t crush
the tiny mounds that were once baby toes and now sit shoved up,
eternally raw pink and useless, on top of her feet.

But it was the war then, and who could buy shoes? she says. There was so little
and the whole family had scurvy the one year, even the baby, who would
scream and scream and scream, in the dark, in the basement,
in the blackouts, when the bombs fell
and there was so much else to think about.


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