Poem: My Neighbor’s Secrets

January 30, 2012

**I wrote this poem during a creative writing workshop in 2004 when I was a senior in high school (age 17). N.B. I decided not to rectify my original error about Bergen-Belsen prisoners having identifier tattoos (only Auschwitz used this methodology)… This only goes to show there is much to learn as the years pass**

My Neighbor’s Secrets

What is there to do when there’s nothing to do?
When the crows are asleep and the crickets say ‘adieu’,
Except spy on your neighbor for fun!

She’s a cheerful aged lady, not feeling blue, but wearing blue,
Filled with content and happiness, especially when the sky turns a dazzling hue,
Except for the darkness that can be seen inside her from time to time.

What is this stranger that rules from inside her?
That torments and haunts her dreams, taking her under,
Except it is not a façade but her true self.

No one seems to know, what can be wrong?
But for you and me it will be no mystery for long,
For it has to do with a mark on the surface of her skin.

An imprint, much like one’s tattoos,
Made for her and the rest of the Jews,
For being alive, the punishment – a brand.

Such excruciating pain to endure and remember,
All for the sight of her left arm, of a number,
Except you haven’t heard her story yet!

When I was twelve, she told me her secrets,
Of her confined childhood in the ghettos of Poland,
Of being forced to wear the once-holy Star of David,
And of the forbidden rituals her family performed on Sabbath,
Behind closed doors and in the mist of the dark night.

She told me her secrets,
Of the daily game of Cat and Mouse, where she was the mouse,
Of the day she lost the race and was hurled into a hell known as Bergen-Belsen,
And of the uniformed, giant beasts who held her life in their hands,
Speaking the devil’s tongue and treating the respect-worthy no better than dirt.

She told me her secrets,
Of the rank smell of human flesh and ashes that filled the air,
Of how low her people had to stoop to survive,
And of hope that all of them carried with them everyday,
That they would be free of this torture and get justice one day.

She told me everything,
Leaving her mark bare and sharing her burden with me,
And so I tell you all my neighbor’s secrets,
So that one day her dream will come true – her dream of justice.


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