Touch: The Journal of Healing


Looking for Helen

    by Tina Hacker

"The worst part was the hunger."

My cousin Helen says this

about her time at Auschwitz.

It's all she'll say. She pretends not to hear

my pleas for more information,

lapses into Hungarian, fleeing to the words

of her youth and remaining there

until the all-clear is sounded

by talk of other matters, other times.


Rabbis repeat reasons why Helen

should, must, ought to say more.

"For future generations, for past generations,

for all generations."

They smile at her, confident in their skills

at persuasion until they feel

gusts of her silence, hear the trumpet call

of her unspoken words sound retreat.


I can now meet with Helen

without asking about the camp.

I ignore the restless questions

tossing and turning in my mind,

catch them before they lunge at her

with impatient demands. Each year,

the unease becomes easier to bear.


But last month, when I called Helen's office,

a voice hollow with indifference said,

"No one by that name works here.

Maybe Julie can help you?"

My cousin came on the line.

She told me her real name was Julie

and didn't know why the family always

called her Helen. That's all she'd say.


Now I call her Julie without translating

her new name into the original.

I wonder if she will change her name again.

Where has she put Helen?

Is she in hiding so when the Nazis

come, her neighbors will say,

"No one by that name lives here.”

© 2010 Tina Hacker

Previously published in an earlier version in Potpourri magazine 2001 and PoetryBlitz! 2009.

A Pushcart Prize nominee, Tina Hacker was a finalist in New Letters and George F. Wedge competitions. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Bellowing Ark, Blue Unicorn, Piedmont Literary Review, I-70 Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, Kansas City Voices, Touch: The Journal of Healing; two anthologies, Show + Tell and Missouri Poets; and upcoming anthologies,  Imagination & Place: Ownership and In the Black/In the Red: Poems of Profit and Loss.


Copyright © 2010

Touch: The Journal of Healing

All rights reserved.