Child of the Book
Dina Pearlman

Like ghost whispers

the books murmured into barely formed ears

the secrets of charred bones.

And the pages turning, turning.

The walls of books diagram from floor to ceiling,

rumors of the other worlds,

where god sat down to write and skipped a chapter.

Dust sugars the bodies of

brittle, history-yellow paper.

Eight years old arms can reach

only to the hell row on the low shelves.

Never forgotten

words jump through fingers.


A warehouse white and gray piled on black ground.

Graininess takes objects to the cellular level.

She thinks they're fish till she sees a slim hand stretching (why?)

way upwards.

In her evening bunker,

underneath the weight of heavy, scratching wool,

a clean pillow cooling a vermilion cheek.

Flashlight circles the bed tent,

breath chugging like the trains;

she reads in a davening sway.

Like sweet opium,

the books fill her solitude, a gut of soft poison

Consuming from the inside out.

And the sleep left her, replaced by foreign words.

And she sees backwards, through dead Semitic eyes.

And they are holding her down.

And they are scrubbing her raw to clean the stain.

And they are shaving off her long, dark spiral hair.

And the pages in her hand shake with the weight of tectonic plates.

And she is burning, burning.

Dina Pearlman is the daughter of Holocaust survivor Buena Alcalay Pearlman from
Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Much of her writing has been centered around growing up as a second generation survivor.  She is currently revising a short story called  "Growing Up in Stalaag 13" about the conflicts of television, books and other exposure to the Holocaust on a child.

She is included in two anthologies of poetry: Dyed-in-the-Wool: A Hudson Valley Anthology, and Wildflowers.

She has also published some of her poetry in the current issue of  Half Moon Review:

Her other work can be seen on her personal website:

This poem is published here at the request of  Dina Pearlman.  Dina Pearlman 2001.