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 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.