The Postcard of Sophie Scholl

Cyrus Cassells

There is the lightning-white moment
when I learn—

the way my costive train to Krakow

and I woke to find myself,
in jostling twilight,

at the Auschwitz platform—
that the Italian postcard

I garnered in Milan years ago
as a genial talisman

isn’t of a pipe-dreaming
Italian boy,

no, no, but an androgynous
image of Sophie Scholl,

the young, intrepid resistance heroine—
as if I’d registered,

in my Schubert-adoring daughter,
my school-resisting son,

a fire undetected before:
Doric-strong nouns demanding

What would you undertake
to stop tyranny?—

stouthearted nouns:
integrity, probity, courage;

in benighted Munich,
the spit-in-the-eye swiftness,

the unbossed bloom
of a crossed-out swastika,

the fierce integrity
in the gust of the word freedom

sprayed over the walls
and ramparts of a deranged

fatherland that rent flesh
as if it were foolscap—

Someday you will be
where I am now,

a steely, premonitory Sophie
proclaimed to the rapacious

Nazi tribunal that rushed her
to execution—

Gazer, collector, in clarity’s name,
look close, then closer:

it’s not just a bud-sweet,
pensive beauty,

a bel ragazzo’s charm;
all these years:

it’s the spirit of crusading youth
that I’ve cherished.

Last updated September 26, 2022