Cara Losier Chanoine is a poet, fiction writer, and teacher from New England. She is a four-time competitor in the National Poetry Slam, and her first collection of poems was released by Scars Publications in 2013. You can visit her website at www.carachanoine.wordpress.com.
Elegy for Boots
purchased for two dollars at a secondhand store,
a half size too large
worn into classrooms and basement bars
baptized in equal parts by summer sweat and winter slush
treads packed with beach sand and graveyard grass,
with gravel from the train tracks
held firm in pits at three Nine Inch Nails shows
left footprints on sidewalks in Texas, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania
patched with marker and electrical tape
laid to rest in the belly of a metal donations box,
empty, but well-traveled
When I was eighteen,
and my roommate wanted to kill herself,
she left a note where she knew I would find it.
It was covered in a mosaic of pills,
far ranging in opacity and hue.
When I returned to the room with help,
the note was gone.
The pills had been dumped into a plastic bowl
printed with cartoon characters.
Not all cries for help are in languages I can understand.
Later, when she was expelled from school,
I felt the requisite regret for being unable
to translate her disturbances
in a way that might have mattered.
When I think of her now,
I wonder if she’s alive,
and whether she still stacks pills in cereal bowls,
like breakfast rations
for the last day she’ll ever have,
like last resorts
in case she lasts too long.
Documents of Barbarism
You critics, who object to poetry about the Holocaust
on account of its beauty,
you say beauty makes sense of things,
and we can never presume
to make sense of genocide.
I wonder if you have never seen
New England’s autumnal leaves,
the sun-sky-hued funeral gowns of the trees.
People make pilgrimages to watch them fall,
and what sense is there in a thing that is most beautiful in death?
Who of us understands the full-fringed eyelashes of a stillborn child,
or the music played on doomed instruments
while the deck of the Titanic split like a ripe plum?
Into what logical language can you translate the determination
set into a young teacher’s jawline as she becomes a human bullet shield
to save her students?
If you object to the beauty of Holocaust poetry, let it not be on the grounds of logic.
Do you think that Paul Celan made any sense
of Margarete’s golden hair,
of Shulamith’s ashen hair?
Wir trinken und trinken,
and still we are thirsty.
For most of us,
the Holocaust will always be remote,
a chasmic maw
of unfathomable depths.
We cannot look at it directly,
but we can try to imagine the variable keys groping the tumblers
of locks that secure snow-filled houses.
We can be reminded of what it means
to survive our own history.
~Cara Losier Chanoine