An enraged woman runs across a street
to bring her handbag down, hard, on the back
of a skinhead Neo Nazi flag-bearer.
A photographer freezes her weapon in midair
just before it lands, the skinhead’s profile calm
as a new-minted hero. Looking closer,
you might guess this is a woman who knows
something about flags and backs. If you search
for what little information there is
you’ll discover she was a Polish Jew, the child
of a mother who survived Auschwitz: facts
that appear to click inevitably into place
till you read further, and the jig-saw edges
rise precipitously. The skinhead will march on
to torture and murder a gay man three years later,
and Danuta – who had been known
to occasionally scream at people in the street –
will jump from a water tower that same year.
Depending on how power-washed you prefer
your heroes or heroines, the handbag
will either lose its weight, become
insubstantial as an averted eye, a pursed
word, or it will gain
the gravity of a scream, a pendulum.
– Växjö, Sweden, 1985
Mark Granier’s Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017.
This article appears in the 18 Jul 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump-Putin pact