back to the Parlour


from the manuscript-in-progress
Painting Czeslawa Kwoka
Honoring Children of the Holocaust

poems by Theresa Senato Edwards
paintings by Lori Schreiner


Elzbieta Konarska

First look at your photograph:

I see my friend who paints you. Ten years old, her hair like yours—cut at mid-ear, bangs give way to a girlish sweat that holds the head’s shape. My friend who paints you sees the nape of neck secured to a cold, steel clamp—a part of chair made by fear. Was this what my father saw when he put wood into his silver vice? That steel device, a toneless tuning fork, no… a distorted metal hand pressing into a fragile valley on the back of a neck. Was this why he spent hours at his work bench, securing objects in metal claws connected to straightness? I think my friend who paints you has this same obsession with all things straight even though straightness can lean to one side, tilt farther away. No…this is my obsession.

First look at your painting:

I climb the red and black ladder up your long, grey neck. Cross the steady bridge over a chalky blue, slide down to linger at the earlobe. Your hair—black pouring rain—never lands, autumn ablaze along the hairline. Your face, a contrast from the photo: bright pinks, tans, slight undertow blue, a rush of life on your right cheek. My friend who paints you rubs the paint to form a speck of lavender mouth beneath a sculptured tip of pink. My friend who paints you, sees her mother’s face, slight curve upward of the left nostril. She grips a stick to shape the girl with stars for eyes. My father prayed for girls. Under stars and saturation, he knew that when he made it home, he’d never have boys to fight in war. He’s still as stars in a muddy sky.


                   After days your painting                  

                   lies still on the floor.
                   the cat’s body, paw touching
                   the tilt of your head
                   as if to reprimand

                   from afar
                   a blackened swan, your neck
                   to hold the sternness of chin,
                   lips scolding.



                  Your photo

                   has sharp, black angles of chair
                   your face soft, tired wonder
                   held in place by cold perpendicular—
                   closer, my nose pressed to paper,

                   your face blurs,
                   white flatness
                   dark cartoon eyes wait.



Photo of Elzbieta Konarska, Holocaust victim, used with permission from the U.S. Holocaust, Memorial Museum, courtesy of Lydia Chagoll. The views or opinions expressed in this collaboration and the context in which the images are used, do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of, nor imply approval or endorsement by, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.



all contents © copyright 2010, Theresa Senato Edwards (poems), Lori Schreiner (art), U.S. Holocaust Memorial (photos) / design by Noah Saterstrom