Poem of the Day

San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck is curating a Poem of the Day with San Francisco Public Library for every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back daily for a new poetic offering from assorted local poets or view the archive of previous day's poems.


My Mother Remembers
   Hafsstadt Labor Camp
by Gail Newman


We walked, every morning, through the town,
while it was still dark—so the people could not see,
and could say later they did not know.

We were skinny, barefoot or in torn shoes,
walking on stones and in dirt to the factory
where we fit metal parts into little holes.

Piece by piece, bending our heads down to the work,
we put the wrong part in the wrong hole,
so the guns would not fire.

Then we walked back through the town,
the smell of bread and meat in the street.   
After we were locked in at night,

two hundred women and girls,
the guard gone until morning, we were left
together, sitting and talking like home.

I told stories from books I had read,
Anne of Green Gables

    If I wasn’t a human girl, I think I’d like to be a bee and live among the flowers.  

I remembered the words,
and told the stories
until we forgot where we were,

      Well, that is another hope gone.

leaning together on cots,

       My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.

until soldiers threw stones
at the window, yelling, Come out.              
Come out. The war is over!


From Blood Memory 2020

View Gail Newman's work in the Library catalog