Poem Of The Week: "outline of a jewish girl, an open letter to zinaida portnova"

This poem is the first in our new series, Poem Of The Week. Stay tuned each Wednesday for a new piece, and don't forget to submit your own work to info@teeneyemagazine.com!


outline of a jewish girl, an open letter to zinaida portnova

Chloë Gottlieb

you wear your name like a paper cut out, a badge
like the yellow has seeped into your veins
and you begin to worry that people will notice
blood no longer courses through you

no, you are made up of words
of molded clay trying to mask
how unholy your God is
how thieving your Adonai is
of the christain boys that want to use you as fuel

zinaida i love you
and I don't know the last time you heard that
the last time someone spelled your name right
or even remembered you at all
because underneath the soil you are buried in
lie the roots tied to mine

teach me how you poisoned yourself
poured venom into your soup to slip past the guards
only to find them waiting at the bottom of your bowl
teach me how you continued to eat

zinaida i read you died in the forest
that it was one month before your eighteenth birthday
one year before the war ended
one lifetime of "if only the timing worked out better"

i like to imagine you with the trees
i can picture your laugh, it sounds like that color yellow, doesnt it?
the one you were never ashamed to hold in front of your heart
because you are the dying light and no one knew how to rage against you
no one realized that once they laid metal on you
once they relieved your lungs before they were overused
let you wish for your skin to sag, old age something you only saw tucked into the corners
of your grandmothers ravaged house

no one realized that would only make us tattoo your name
on our forearms- instead of a serial number
the receipt of genocide much more than mere tombstones
or barcodes

zinaida i hope someone celebrated your birthday
if not, you can take my candles
i have so many i'd like to give to you

as if i could pluck the years out of the frosting
and hand them to you

because you deserve so much more
more of everything

you deserve grandchildren who could mourn you
you deserve love letters, platonic romantic sprawling incoherent declarations of love
letters reminding you how strong light things could be
letters that would put this one to shame

Chloë Gottlieb (she/her) is a 17 year old writer/artist from Southern California. She is a dedicated feminist and aspiring dog owner who wrote the above poem to shed light on an unsung hero of WWII; Zinaida Portnova, who led a youth resistance against the Nazi party in 1941 - 1944.

Portnova was kidnapped two or three times by Hitler's stationed troops after distributing leaflets, collecting weapons, and participating in sabotage actions that were estimated to kill up to a hundred of the aforementioned soldiers. She escaped once by poisoning the food of her guards, then eating it herself to feign innocence. After shooting her Gestapo interrogator, and possibly being tortured, she was shot dead a month before her 18th birthday. 


images via lasegundaguerra.com