Cap by Irena Praitis

They shave your head, line you up
under their perforated-pipe shower, 
peck at you on your crawl toward roll call. 
They scratch your number in their ledger, 
stack your clogs, striped trousers, a rag-
patched shirt, one round cap. Laundered 
in another era, threadbare, who’d wear 
these clothes—prisoners? Criminals? 
Men like you? We all need warmth to survive. 
A cold wind fingers your razor-rashed scalp. 

You shoulder your prisoner’s shirt,  
pull on pants, curl your toes to grooves 
in another man’s shoes. 
But you will not 
wear a dead man’s hat to save your head.   

Römhild Work Education Camp, 1944
Irena Praitis
Irena_Praitis-download_2_optIrena Praitis is the author of six books, most recently One Woman’s Life (Diversion Press, 2010), Straws and Shadows (Moon Tide Press, 2012), and The Last Stone in the Circle (Red Mountain Press, forthcoming 2016). She is a professor of literature and creative writing at Cal State Fullerton.