I walk a long way
sinking in soft sand.

My feet, two creatures
of burden.

Low lying clouds
mirror stormy ocean waves

and wild eddies.
The wrack line

littered with elkhorn
with coral sponges—

each one a finger
from a different hand.

are the reefs

they arose from.
As a child

I combed black rocks of a jetty
prying starfish from pools

sucked salt
off their legs,

curious podia searching
my tongue.

I craved also
the taste of ash

ate cigarette butts
from the beach—

put anything in my mouth
to know it.


I was nine
when I first saw the photographs—

bodies overflowing
from wheelbarrows.

Corpses pitched
in heaps like firewood

at the sides of barracks.
Didn’t recognize what they were.

Then I noticed the bird,
a raven,

the inside of a human nose.


There are as many songs in the world
as branches of coral.

The sponges
the sea pens,

the whips,
have a bloody

earthy smell.
I lay the few I’ve collected

on a wicker table to dry
under the adonidia palms

and squeeze out the remaining brine.
Soon they begin to sigh.


These hours
when the sky is white

my heart reels
like a cay in a squall

and I arrive again
at the scowl

of the red brick gate.
There were no clouds

that day, above the camp.
The grassy fields

bright green.
Tall birches

in full leaf.
I walked weightlessly

on the train tracks,
one foot

in front of the other
balancing on rails.

I pulled a rusty hair pin
from the soil

put it in my mouth—
75-year-old tarnish

a perfumed
female essence.

The remaining brick
chimneys crumbling,

splintered garrisons—
burial pits moaned—

here was an endless landscape
of hatred this primeval—

it was as ifI saw
each soul

who had arrived and


in the emerald fields.
And everything

broke open
and sang.


There were no clouds
that day

I visited Birkenau,
but the sky,

it was white.
The meadows,

they glistened,
the tall birches,

Before I left

I ate a few blades of grass—
peeled off a strip of bark

pressed two sharp stones
into my well-made shoe.

Elizabeth Jacobson is the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico and an Academy of American Poets 2020 Poets Laureate Fellow. Her most recent book, Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air, won the New Measure Poetry Prize, selected by Marianne Boruch (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2019), and the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. She is the Reviews Editor for the on-line literary journal Terrain.org and she teaches poetry workshops regularly in the Santa Fe community.