For Art Spiegelman
Schadenfreude: Joy derived from the misfortunes of others or in destruction.
No matter how you tie it. The mask is a mouse.
The smelling, digging, scavenging kind. The kind
that survive. Or the kind that make it through with-
Have you ever liked your own breath, mommy?
Fur all gray and knotted up. Plucked from home,
tossed into a flame of Schadenfreude meant only
for us. The fences, stars, guns, starvation,
When you survived, were you happy?
When the three strands are sewn together, like
thread pulled through the eye of a needle.
Then twisted, first over the top, next underneath,
then back over and pinched. The single piece is
Like manna, from heavens mouth. Every individual
one Challah. One purpose, one heritage, one grief.
When one is missing, all of it is.
Did you cry when you cut your wrists, mommy?
Did it hurt to bleed out your pain in a tub down
the hall from my room? The porcelain stained in
red circles, like the spirals in fences. A signal to
stop, a guardrail you built and crossed.
They thought it was me. At the funeral I heard
them. Whispers in squeaks about my illness, your
illness, our illness. I’m caught inside a trap. You
set it, mommy. Coaxed me in with bate I couldn’t
Is it all your fault? Is it mine?
It was your love. Or that’s how dad sees it.
He still weeps for you. That was your plan. The
final solution. Weave a man so deep then set him
loose. Alone, without a woman, wife, or friend.
I don’t understand. You have lived with rats before.
You let dad convince you they were mice. When did
his voice stop speaking? When did your eyes stop seeing,
and you decided you were done?
He burnt your journals all up. The ones you wrote for
me. When I asked him why, he said they had too many
He murdered your voice. I can’t remember what you
sound like. Maybe, like a meow? A strained drawn out
yowl of a meow. A cry for help.
Did you ever read me your life when I was young?
Let the pauses between lines slide into my ears like
dough? Ever tell me what it was like to hide? The numb-
ness it takes to squeeze into holes. And stay there.
Did I tell you I don’t believe it? None of it. Not the
manna or the curls or the candles. It’s been terminated.
Did you believe?
I called him a murderer. Your husband, not the poison
that choked Richieu, or the men who took your mom
and dad. He let the torch take the only part of you
you gave. Paper. Words, like the rest of them.
Are you with God now?
Do you not cry anymore, mommy? The way dad said
you did when you went to The Sanitarium. Echoes that
scream from within the soft gooey center but stay out
But that is where we touch, can’t you see it mommy?
Those are the parts where we bleed into each other.
Burn off the water and grow firm.
Why didn’t you feel it when we tried to braid your worries
into our own?