Three poems by S.E.Ingraham


An anthropologist,
she lived through
high drama.
Arrested by the Gestapo
for her role in the formation
of the French Resistance
Charges included could have
led to death
at Ravensbrueck
Designated to disappear
under Hitler’s famous
Nacht and Nebel
(night and fog) decree,
she survived.
Her mother, picked up
for hiding
a British airman,
died in a gas chamber
in 1945—
selected for death
for having white hair.
After the war, Tillion,
—an important
public intellectual
in the 1950s and 60s—
when thinkers like
Aron and Sartre
passionately debated,
she argued
French responsibility
to Algerians.
She delved into the past
to recall spectres of the Gestapo
becoming one of the first,
loudest voices
to protest French torture
of Algerian prisoners.
Tillion, who did not marry,
nor have children—
wrote an operetta—
A Camp Worker Goes to Hell,
while in the concentration camp.
Kept in a drawer for 60 years,
worried, “…people would get
the wrong idea, think we were
enjoying ourselves…”
The sheer darkness
of the humour
makes that unlikely.
A character joked that
the camp offers
“all the creature comforts –
water, gas, electricity –
especially gas.”
(Germaine Tillion 1907 – 2008 – anthropologist, hero, received sage status, for moral authority and lucid intellect)
Lately, every time I go on-line,
every time I open a new site,
or someone posts some new link,
I really wish I could be anywhere
but where I am…
Just…elsewhere, you know?
There are these photos of obviously
wealthy men (and if it isn’t obvious by
their clothes and grooming; they tell you
in the captions just how very well-off
these decadent sorts are), slumped
casually in a canvas-backed chair.
At first glance, it almost looks as if the
man with the perfectly coifed silver hair
might be just stroking a large male lion.
But there’s something off about the lion
And it doesn’t take long to discover
he’s been skinned, he’s dead —
and then further reading leads to
the abysmal fact that he’s just one of many
that was raised specifically to be hunted
down and slain for this man’s pleasure
(or another just like him).
Of course, lions are just one large game
species that fit the bill for this abhorrent
practise…and this, this is legal and above
board…it’s all about the money.
What isn’t legal but still goes on at an alarming
rate is poaching – rhinos, elephants, tigers –
you name it; if it’s becoming extinct…it’s
still being poached.
Of course, some animals are already gone,
hunted or poached into extinction. They’re—
I guess you could say—already elsewhere.

When that guy Snowden came out with his information
about all the inappropriate snooping the government
does routinely on ordinary folks
It didn’t surprise me in the least
Maybe it comes from watching too much of that show,
Person of Interest. I think it mirrors what Snowden’s
afraid of, and has gone to great lengths to talk about
People say to me that he’s just out for the publicity,
he’s a traitor; he’s this and he’s that.
I have a problem with this theory
He’s a man without a country now. He has to live in hiding,
probably for the rest of his life.
He tried to go through proper channels with his info when
he first discovered it, and was told by the powers that be,
he would likely be indicted, spend years in jail.
I agree with those who think he’s done a courageous
thing –
Will it do any good?
I really don’t know – I hope I don’t ever personally have to
find out.

Baby M Gets her Wings by S. E. Ingraham

They sentenced your mother;
with time served, she’s got
eleven years left.
I wonder will you rest easy now,
or fly off to whatever heaven awaits
the babes of murderous parents.
You have been so long with me,
but after hearing of the abuses
perpetrated on your sister
and you—she lives still,
as does your brother,
I’m sure you know—
The dead being omniscient
to these things
I seemed unable to shake your
spectre loose.
It was almost as if until it was done:
—the arrests, charges, both trials,
the sentencing’s—
I knew you couldn’t depart
this plane,
needed someone to keep watch.
Perhaps it was foolish of me,
but it felt like a stewardship
of sorts.
Now, today, I felt your
angel-wings unfold
as you took the sky at last.

Sins of the Father by S. E. Ingraham

creaking, shaken by night and fury,
and I feel leaves dying inwards,
amassing green materials
to your desolate stillness.
Pablo Neruda 
      (from:Entrance Into the Wood)
The dark chorus sang me awake last night,
their voices harmonizing until Mozart’s Requiem
came clear and then I knew it was for you they sang.
Felt the music’s strings tugging at my heart’s own
but once up that organ became fisted. Checking the news
reminded me of my angst anew, and I could not help but worry.
Your father’s sentencing was this day; I felt your soul hovering,
your wings, whisper-soft, near me as I began to hurry
creaking, shaken by night and fury.
Driving to the courthouse, the facts of your case crowd my mind.
It is difficult to think of much else, though such horror
should not bear reliving; I fear until justice is done, I will not be
afforded release, and images of you and your twin,
two years old, starved and beaten, and weighing thirteen pounds
when your heart finally gave out, and your father, a man so hard,
panicked, at last called the EMT’s, too late for you really, but they came,
did their best, got that organ beating, became de facto bodyguards,
and I feel leaves dying inwards.
Of course, the EMT’s alerted the police, and both your parents
were arrested then.  Your brother was discovered – healthy,
bouncing on the couch while the rescue attempts went on.
Inspections at your house exposed the  conditions
in which you and your twin had been living: a urine-soaked mattress,
no toys, no clothes, nothing in the room but that cloth bacterial.
And as malnourished as both you and your sister were,
in the kitchen stood a fridge, filled, stately, almost magisterial
amassing green materials.
So today your father will be sentenced, and I hear he’ll get the max
but the mystery of your life and death will become no clearer, I’m afraid.
The letter he shared through his interpreter was pitiful at best,
to tell us, and the court, that he never meant to hurt you or your sister,
that he just made a big mistake, and will be broken-hearted all his life.
It leaves me simmering, leaves me saddened, makes me hate him more, too.
Starving babies, then assaulting them,  as well as all the illness,
leaves me feeling unwell also, wondering how to free you, so you may soar.
I am taken, I am seized,  with a calming sort of chillness
to your desolate stillness.
The story of Baby M has haunted me since its inception in May 2012. There is nothing that bothers me quite so much as child abuse and no abuse that gets to me in the way parental abuse does. This case is so troubling, I have written about it many times. I will never understand these parents, and my heart will never heal from the ache incurred over this baby. The fact that the father was sentenced to 15 years was a minor triumph, but it did bring it all back for many of us.
S.E.Ingraham, a retired mental health consumer, pens poems from the 53rd parallel (Edmonton, Alberta) where she lives with her love, when they’re not travelling the world, or plotting ways to do so. Her poetry has appeared in print and online, and she has a chapbook near-ready for publication in 2016. In her spare time, she straightens public works of art.