Tag Archives: Paula C. Lowe

Paula C. Lowe

Groningen/Sleeping with Scars

Post World War II


My thumb was out, a beak of me

pecking a way to the sea by land

from Hamburg


where I was sleeping

in a palace inside of which

Nazi officers ate their strudel

on the plates I later then ate strudel

and their salt had not washed out,

their acid had not washed out,

their spit in that sweet had not washed out,


and I was sleeping

in a palace inside of which

Nazi officers drank their bloody drinks

on the cold iron stairs I climbed,

where women had pulled their hair

into buns and hid their bodies in smocks

and scurried to find black shoes to shine them


where I was sleeping

in a palace in a trundle bed

and I slept each night in the lost skin

of a Nazi officer

in linen that had not washed out,

the sweat of that officer had not washed out,

the grease of the skin of that officer had not washed out,


and I felt the star sleeping

in my head burn like a wand burn,

like a brand, and the grope

in the sheets of the hands of a Nazi officer

as he turned his strudel-fattened face

on a pillow, my pillow, and left the crust

of his cheek on the linen where I breathed him,


where his cells slept

in my skin and I packed them

in my satchel when I thumbed a ride

to Groningen, to the gray flat ancient Groningen,

but my thumb was weak and I crouched on the ramp

in a dark inside of which I carried the spit and seed

and skin until a truck


came and left me to sleep

in a stone block building I opened

with a Nazi officer’s key put into a key hole

to a room with a bed, a trundle bed,

and I pulled on my smock and my bun

and lay as a scar next to any man

who picked me from the road


and I heard while I was sleeping

the SS laughing inside the walls

and women shining shoes,

the brush back and forth to shine the black,

and the blood on the shoes that could not wash,

the acid that could not wash, the spit in that sink

of rusty drains that could not wash off


and I woke my star

and kicked the men who laid

their crusts of belly on the linen, my linen,

and I broke the door with my beak

and pecked my way to the sea,

carrying my satchel of scars.


Setting: A palace outside of Hamburg was said to have been used

as a Nazi officer training center during World War II. Post-war,

the palace became an educational institute. Strudel was served

every afternoon between classes to students who did not know

the origins of their beds when they came to study there.


Groningen was a headquarters for Nazi-occupied Europe.

Post-war, it was said that those who spoke German did not speak of this.

The hotel was Weeva, Zuiderdiep 8, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Hwy 530/Stillaguamish River

for the 42 people lost in a mudslide

Oso, Washington, 2014


All night we dreamt of driving that river

with its cold water

wedged low in the lost valley,

horsetail and skunk cabbage

with fingers and sweaty palms out,

the road a cord looped around the head

of the red-tagged timber

above where the houses grew

like foxglove in the clearings left by loggers

and the grass came with the moss,

and here and there cattle stood in mud,

and left out horses made do under alders,

and around each bend, the rusting hull of a boat

anchored itself to the rusting trailer next to it.


All night we dreamt of diving into that river

with its bank in its mouth

and its flank in its throat

and the snow melt pulled like a noose

around the people who were napping

and baking and eating and talking

and finding keys too late,


and we woke wet in a fear-suckled sweat

that froze like black ice on our sheets

when we remembered how our canoe tipped

in a flood on that same Stillaguamish,

how I was pinned in an eddy

and I couldn’t swim out

and your rope was too short to throw

and a neighbor, a crabber, ran to his shed,

got a net to toss me, and I grabbed his hand

when he lent it like he was one from a town of angels.


Paula C. Lowe lives three hours north of LA. Her poetry book, moo (2014)is a collection of calling poems. Recent work appears inapercus, burntdistrict, Poet Lore, The Comstock Review, Tule Review, Askew, The Iowa Review, DogwoodSow’s Ear and many more. She holds a graduate degree from the University of Washington and has published half a dozen non-fiction books.


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Paula C. Lowe

The Perpetual Melancholy of Pauline Larson

1898 – 1945                         


On the flat palm of prairie, you were born to wail

in the muffling dark of broken sod

and barn stones cobbled from the land

like potatoes peeled with a knife into a white

tin basin.


You were a blue girl inside a ring of desperate trees

circled with their backs to the northwest wind,

a daughter darning socks by a brother

whittling sticks while a blizzard

drift-locked your doors.


Pauline, how did you carry on in that county

of perpetual melancholy, wear wool washed

in muddy water pailed from Beaver Creek,

wear stains of silt that wouldn’t beat out

even as you stretched your skirts

over chokecherry?


Busted banks and world wars took and broke men

and sent them back to fields and streets of Hadley

with no wheat to feed them.


How did you lift despair in your hands and learn

to drink its tea so calmly? Marry a road

maker back from the trenches, bring

up babies in a caboose at the back

of his mule caravan?


How did you raise your only boy to let the ships

make him a man, dress him in sailor whites

washed in bleach to blur his fear sweat?


And more war? And then the war in your chest,

the knife in your breast.


How did you roast your last Easter meal, carry high

the platter of ham in your swollen arms

to your son come home in uniform?

How did you live that long?



Winnie B. and 100,000 Lobotomies


— For those, in the Mid-Twentieth Century,

subjected to surgery that severed the nerves

connecting the front part of the brain

to the thalamus.


I am bringing back your frontal lobe,

I am bringing back the skull they broke in two–


you climbing the bars in the third floor white room,

you with your toes in the bars, your teeth


screw driving the screws to chew off the grate,

you with your shaved head, you in your sized too small


straight jacket in the third floor white room

(They said you were waiting).


I am bringing back your frontal lobe,

I am bringing back the skull. They used a drill.


Dr. Oh diagnosed a mote in your eye, blinding, you see,

blinding you so you couldn’t look after your daughter,


couldn’t cook sausage in a pan for the father of your daughter

on the stove he bought in the kitchen in the house in the town


he loved more than you running down the street screaming, more

than you running your Norwegian tongue naked down the street.


I am bringing back your frontal lobe, I am bringing back

the skull they drilled into, and the motes that fell on the floor



and fled down the fire escape when Dr. Oh, he didn’t look

for them, put down his drill or ice pick, didn’t take off


his dripping red gloves, his wet lab coat, I come for the bits

of you they took from you, I come to hold the name of you,


Winefred, take it with me from the floor of the institution.

It was wrong to claim you were waiting.


Paula C. Lowe lives on a cattle ranch three hours north of LA. Her poems appear in Poet Lore, The Comstock Review, Tule Review,Askew, The Iowa Review, DogwoodSow’s Ear and more. Her latest book, Moo, releases in early 2014, and her poems appear in the anthologies Bird as Black as the Sun and Poems For Endangered Places. Formerly managing editor for Solo Press, Lowe is a co-publisher at Big Yes Press.

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