Skip to Content

Zyklon B

By Julie Enszer

Where should one draw the line?
. . . the line is very clearly Zyklon B.

The painters call before we move into the new house. Ma’am, they say—

I am not old enough to be a ma’am, but I don’t correct them—
Ma’am, they say, we smell gas.

I dismiss their concern. I say, Keep painting.

I say, You are already two weeks behind schedule.

Five days after we move in, I wake up sick. I vomit.

Gas filled our house. We open all the windows,

call the utility company. The stove regulator isn’t working.
It can’t be fixed. We buy a new Frigidaire.

This is what I know of life:
Love fiercely, even recklessly;
Laugh loudly, even raucously;
Risk everything, at least once;
Live openly, without abandon;
Build trust, be honest;
Buy American.

A year later our washing machine breaks.

I want a new German one—small, sleek, stylish.
I tell my wife, It is perfect for the kitchen.

Our washer and dryer are in the kitchen.

My wife says, They built the ovens.

We buy a new Frigidaire.

Degesch, a company affiliated with Degussa,
based in Dusseldorf,

is the world’s largest maker of specialty chemicals.
Degussa has an exemplary record
of examining the wartime past,

making restitution to victims. Still

The Memorial Foundation for the Murdered Jews of Europe
rejects a subcontract for Degussa.

Degesch manufactured gas pellets: Zyklon B.

This is what I know of gas:

May you never make a mistake that cannot be corrected.
May you never take an action that cannot be forgotten.

Added: Wednesday, January 28, 2015  /  From Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013).
Used with permission.
Julie Enszer
Photo by Stephan Declue.

Julie R. Enszer is the author of four poetry collections, Avowed (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Lilith’s Demons (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2015), Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010). She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011). Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She has her MFA and PhD from the University of Maryland. Enszer edits and publishes Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and is a regular book reviewer for the The Rumpus and Calyx. Read more on Enszer's website.

Other poems by this author