I can feel my body weakening
The weariness accompanying every step
The stubbornness of my frozen joints
My body is failing me
And my mind is starting to give in as well
It’s hard to remember that there were times
When I wasn’t so frail
When I was young and happy
Before this mess the monsters created.

The hunger, the starvation
Carves a black hole of emptiness
In my stomach
It grows, it widens
It seeks to destroy my body
It knows it has already taken my mind

My children will never be ones
To so loosely claim
In a fit of anger and annoyance
“Mother, I am starving”
They know what it is to starve
My grandchildren will never say
“Father, I am hungry”
Because they will not have known
What it meant

I can’t sit up anymore
My back and hips constantly hurt
And I can barely move them
Even when I’m lying down
I feel like a puppet
Whose strings have been cut
A forgotten child’s toy
Tossed aside
Abandoned for the newer
Shinier model

The cold is a constant torture
The wind bites and stings
Cracking my hands and lips
Until they bleed.

More people fall ill
Corpses pile up
Rations are cut

Death is all around us
Inside us
Is us
Some of us look like sunken imitations
Of the reaper himself
The cold is as unrelenting as always
Ornery in its refusal
To loosen its tight hold against our necks.

I stop eating
There is no point
I know I am to die
I am glad to give more food
To my loved ones
So I accept my unavoidable death
I have but two regrets
That my children will watch me die
And that the meager but helpful
Rations of a fourth person
Will be cut upon my last breath

The people I am with
My family
My husband and children
Seem to float silently around me
Ghostly incarnations
Of the man and children they once were
I mourn the death of their innocence
Never again will they play in a sandbox
Without thinking of the dry earth
Our weak bodies shoveled
To make room
For more crops
And more graves
Life and death
Occupying the land together
So that we may benefit
From the decaying bodies
Of our fellow humans

My vision turns misty
I feel trapped in a clouded painting
My surroundings familiar yet mysterious
Beautiful yet haunting
Trapped in a clouded painting
Knowing that someday soon
I too will disappear into the fog

Hannah Tenzer Engel was born in Poland in 1900 and died in Uzbekistan in 1943. She is Nili Ivan’s great-great-grandmother.