Zara Raab










After the War

                  circa 1946


He orders me, I do as he says.

I’m afraid of his moods.

When I bake meatloaf,

he gags: « Don’t eat that. »


He becomes my plow.

Nightly he turns me over.

One day we bath as one,

our day-of-leisure Sunday:


He rubs my legs and back

and fills me, all my cracks.

Afterwards, we doze.

By Monday, I’m an empty vase.


He buys mahogany chairs,

then breaks a leg on the stairs.

First he sobs, then he shouts.

I dare not leave the house.




Home from War


See them passing now on the street while walking

curly, wagging terriers; these the G.I.s

done with wars, the prison of wars, the wars that,

won or not, are deadly and leave them lost,

waking twenty years or so later, puzzled,

recognizing nothing, remembering hourly

how they filled the ditch of those losing battles,

noting not the city,  unreal to them now,

but the smell of earth, how around them stretch

the greening lawns, the harvest of cemeteries.




Waiting for Transport

                  Hungary, winter of 1944-1945


My fear lifts me to the skies. Lying here

on a cloud, I look down upon the earth.

From here, the rivers do not seem to move.

Neither does my anguish move in its bed

of sorrow.  My tears’ down-welling will salt

the rivers to the sea, cause land to freeze.


In parched air, ashes rain down and my child sings,

Water! Water! to her long absent father.

Her cries would move stones—but not in these times.

Who will know her thirst?  Who’ll care for her?

Will the trees torn with shrapnel to their core

tell her brief  story in this endless war?


Don’t you feel it, Bela?  She’ll be lost!

We’ll never see her again, tender child.

It’s the loss I cannot tolerate, loss

of all I am.  Gendarme! Take my gold rings!

Why wait til I’m in my grave?  Dismember

my finger bones one by one. Remember


Bela!  It is easy to lift bangles

from my wrist.  But the tangles of myself

with my child are not easy to slip off––

For that, you will have to rip out my arm,

down to my heart. Let others flee or hide.

I’m cold now, awaiting the final ride.




No More War


Swelling started in her feet.

Still, she managed the campus,

her wicker lawn chair wheeling

across the quad to the elm

for her weekly class in ethics.

‘”Think of spelunkers,” she’d say,

trapped in a cave like Plato’s,

and then asked, ‘Should one be

sacrificed for commonweal?’

Groups of students going by

yelled, “No more war!” “End the war!”

She, not frail despite her

illness, but pale and young, smiled.

Half the boys were sweet on her.

Hoarse from smoking Camels, she

argued her view: “Was there one,”

she asked us, “more vulnerable,

perhaps more willing to die?”

We haggled. “What if they’re all

doomed?” “Shouldn’t they draw straws?”

The elm leaves quivered and drooped.

How could we choose before we

knew that darkness days on end

with wet granite pressing down?

“Couldn’t they dig their way out?”

“Or eat mushrooms?” Finally,

we fell silent. We did not

want to think any more of

sealed fates we could not escape,

no matter how much we called,

pushing our voices up through

the rock. It made us angry,

this death, all the other deaths.


                  First published in Stand (UK), 2012




Social Studies


She dimmed the lights once gleaming on our desks;

thin strips of acetate clicked and skittered

from the mouth of the rattling projector

images at first like her arabesques.


One was black-white shadow—the ullage

of a man, his scalage reduced to smudge,

something from Plato’s cave pooled out of air

and flashed onto the white stone of a bridge.


Nothing remained of him but the shadow

on that bridge where he had been standing

when Enola droned, clicking and whirring,

splitting the noon sun to pi or zero.


                  from Swimming the Eel, David Robert Books, 2011











Zara Raab’s latest book is Fracas & Asylum. Earlier books are Swimming the Eel and The Book of Gretel, narrative poems of the remote Lost Coast of Northern California in an earlier time. Her work – book reviews, essays,  and poems –  has appeared in Verse Daily, River Styx, Arts & Letters, Crab Orchard ReviewCritical Flame, Raven Chronicles, and The Dark Horse. Rumpelstiltskin, or Whats in a Name? was a finalist for the Dana Award.

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