i.m. Karig Sara 1917-1999

                                Sad is Eros, builder of cities,
                                And weeping anarchic Aphrodite.

                                                W.H. Auden, "In Memory of Sigmund Freud"

Two thousand orphans, real ones and children of
Jewish deported parents, so you and your
   ill-sorted Red Cross wartime colleagues
   made it your business to feed and save them.

Blackout: You hacked up dray horses killed in the
air raids, and brought the meat to the orphanage:
   black-market lamb a butcher comrade
   donated, you told suspicious children.

Interned in '53 as a Trotskyist
you underwent a double mastectomy
   for "lumpy breasts": chloroform was the
   one anesthetic used in the gulag.

Pain wasn't something you ever dwelled upon.
Most probably, your breasts weren't cancerous—
   Tubercular and convalescent
   you were excused from the mines and road work.

So you were put to work in the bindery.
You'd bound a Russian engineer's personal
   notebook in a silk scarf you'd hidden:
   proving your competence (proof you loved her)

and every evening, you warned the prisoners
who was in danger: punishment, overwork.
   You'd sworn, of course, you read no Russian
   —just a Hungarian female convict.

When I knew you, you liked your flat chest: you had
two inside pockets sewn in each suit jacket.
   You and the engineer exchanged long
   letters: your model for prose was Chekhov.

Your six-room Buda-side-of-the-Danube flat
reminded me of rooms in the Bronx that were
   East Europe reinvented, purplish
   overstuffed furniture, steamy laundry

hung in the bathroom on a contraption with
pulleys. You drank me under the table each
   night; I could hear you, every morning
   back at the typewriter at six-thirty.