Half a bottle of vodka & half a loaf of bread

This is a poem pieced together from notes and lines in a notebook I used while serving as the teaching assistant for the Holocaust course offered at the University of Nebraska. During my time with the class, I was able to schedule some survivors to come speak with our students. I tried my best to scribble out their stories in my notebook, so I could always have my own record of their experiences. Over the years, I have returned to their stories time and again while struggling with matters of faith, resilience, and cruelty. This poem is made up of lines and summaries that I found in my notes from Lou Leviticus.

Cactus growing in the debris gathered in the bowl of a rock, while the lake ripples

Half a bottle of vodka & half a loaf of bread

Kylie Louise McCormick

Half a bottle of vodka & half a loaf of bread
I opened my mouth
and the sea came pouring out.
Five years of misery,
a nine year old criminal
hiding from Nazis on farms and in forests,
stealing eggs and sleeping in haystacks.
"Not big now, but a lot smaller then."
How did he survive? With his father closing
the door and telling him, "go!" With the falter,
a brief flicker of humanity which stops a soldier,
his finger poised on the trigger, 
as a Jewish child falls in front of him.
"I'll never know why he didn't shoot me,"
the old man now recalls, "he was punished later."

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