Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature. Over 400,000 monthly users. Over 6,000 archived posts.

Laure-Anne Bosselaar: The Pallor of Survival

                  I’m lucky: autumn is flawless today, 

sidewalks freckled rust and red, and the sun 

gentle. I’ll take the back streets to the bookstore – 

it’s a longer ride – but I avoid  the street where 

St. John the Evangelist Church faces that seedy building 

with a sign flashing 

                               Jews for Jesus


            I don’t know what happened to Judith Aaron, 

placed in 1945 at the Mater Immaculata convent 

in Brussels, after she was repatriated from Bergen-Belzen. 

Judith who waited eleven years for some — any — next of kin 

to claim her. No one ever came to the black and brass door. 


            And we never saw her again after 

she turned eighteen and left that very morning, still 

wearing the convent uniform, but the blouse open 

three buttons down and the socks low on her white ankles.  

She left on a sleety October day, years after —

from under a bed in the infirmary — I’d seen 


            what the nuns did to her 

when she confessed she had touched herself:  

bending her over, pulling down her panties to 

ram the longest part of an ivory crucifix into her, 

hissing: HE is the Only One Who Can Come 

Inside You — No One Else— You Hear?


            She didn’t let out a sound, not a sigh: 

the pallor of survival carved into her face 

when she pulled her panties up again. 


I think she made it: she was of the stone 

statues are made from.  And yet, I still search — 

Judith, I can’t stop searching for signs we made it, 

you, me and the others, 

signs I find in the smallest things: 

a flawless sky, a leaf autumn 

turns, an open gate.

Copyright 2018 Laure-Anne Bosselaar

6 comments on “Laure-Anne Bosselaar: The Pallor of Survival

  1. Relax...
    December 3, 2018

    Does anyone actually believe this?


    • Vox Populi
      December 3, 2018

      My understanding is that the poem is based on actual events which happened at a convent in Brussels. Moreover, the widespread abuse of children by Catholic clergy has been well-documented. There’s no reason to believe that priests were the only ones committing the abuse.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Noel Canin
      November 29, 2019

      Yes. And there is endless documentation of abuse committed by nuns. Apart from that – what is important is how you feel when you read this poem, what it does to you – that is truth and that needs to be looked at.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow Vox Populi and receive new posts by email.

Join 12,348 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 4,585,033 hits


%d bloggers like this: