For Odette

Call it hallucinatory truth, it came like Goethe
shouting himself kaput
in his armchair, glaring as Oslo’s winter
fields making her squint. She’d gone
for a walk. She’d opened a letter. Good old Otto,
his calculations missed the point.
They’d shared crusty flasks, stubborn lovers
of failure for years until the Gestapo
began its research
on attics and last names. He found her
a train and his mother’s diamond
for cash if things got messy, purged her
from the papers. She’s still nothing,
a flashy footnote to the Prize,
an atom in the cataclysm
the Germans schemed of. Yes, it’s known
she gave the ring away, refused the pilgrimage
to Los Alamos. But really, she just stood there
in the snow, the before
and after disengaged. Soon they’d compare
Hiroshima to Auschwitz
as if light were an equation,
had another side and all they saw was fire.

David Moolten‘s most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Award from the Truman State University Press. He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.