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Escaping Winter

For Joe Engel

You were forced to choose

between the cold that surrounded you. It was cold

in the cattle cart transporting you through the depths

of winter, the snow seeping through the sides of the moving prison

the only way to stay alive. The people around you

filled themselves with cold until there was nothing else left,

all warmth retracting as you fell deeper and deeper into Germany.

You had left the cold behind two days ago in Auschwitz,

where bodies strung the barbed wire fences like white flags

of surrender. They had given up to the cold inside them,

hope frozen over in their hearts, defenseless to the blizzards

of hate that plagued the camp.

You passed miles and miles of cold

alongside the train tracks, freshly fallen snow

undisturbed. The blank sheets called out to you

and you silently responded, thawing away

at the frigid doubts

of survival inside of you.

At night it was decided

there was more waiting beneath the snow, which promised

to shield you when you finally jumped. It concealed you

from a rain of bullets that followed your leap,

a venture lasting eight hours of fear

and unknowing.

You were forced to choose

between a train to nowhere or a chance

at living again, embracing the cold that learned

to embrace you back, painting the canvas of white

snow with a legacy that refused

to remain frozen.

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