The Cat-Woman of Oederan

The Cat-Woman of Oederan

She was beautiful, my mother says
sexual and cruel in a cat-like way.
I think she had yellow eyes, this guard
at the labor camp at Oederan, near Dresden
where prisoners like my mother worked
making munitions for the German war machine.
She could fly into an athletic rage.
She was lithe and strong, a fit Aryan.
She probably did what my mother calls "gymnastics,"
daily calisthenics in a black leotard, like Eva Braun.
She could terrify and wound, humiliate
and beguile.
She selected prisoners for transport east, to death.
She had probably killed prisoners herself.
She ruled the barracks, commanded silence with a look.
I think she had a cat's soul.

There was a young girl in the barracks, ten or twelve.
No one knew how she got there.
Her parents were dead.
There were no other children there.
Her survival depended on drawing no attention to herself.
One night she started screaming for her mother
shrieking in the dark, an uncontrolled, primal, suicidal scream.
No one could stop her.
She would take no comfort, feared no threat
she listened to no reasonable plea.
"Be quiet, be quiet for God's sake..."
Suddenly the cat-woman
Standing at the barracks door, standing for Death.
The knot of women parted, helpless, ready to witness again.
The child screamed and screamed.
She became nothing but that horrible noise.

Cat-woman sprang to her side, cradled her
rocked her like a mother, soothing, purring, comforting.
Sometime later she brought the child a doll.
As long as my mother remembers, the child
followed the cat-woman like a pet.
She never learned what happened to the child, if she survived.

The cat-woman I see in the officer's bar, laughing
with her colleagues, talking about her girls, her Jews.
She has yellow eyes and ears pointed at the tips.
I think when all slept, she became a cat
stalking mice in corners of the camp.
When I see a cat lapping at a saucer of milk
when I hear those profoundly erotic, self-satisfied sounds
gurgling from the heaving belly of a cat
or see a cat play with a hamstrung mouse
I see her, cat-beautiful and cruel at Oederan.

by Steve Klepetar

Contributors retain all rights to their work. ©1996 Kaleidoscope. Write Place. Volume 7.


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