Before I Boarded The Train

Before I Boarded The Train

Before I Boarded The Train 1920 1080 Renee Emerson

–Corrie Ten Boom

I strung up a Bible
between my shoulder blades,
felt its reassuring pat pat,
our bodies just bodies packed
together in filth, cattled 
toward the camp. 

My father hid people 
behind my bedroom wall
like termites, living encased in wood. 
When it was time to be taken, I was 
doorjamb, false-front, good-enough, 
and strangers survived my sisters. 

In the camp, we stood naked 
for our medical inspection: a line 
of leering soldiers. We slept
end to end, could neither sit up
nor lift our head to speak, but 
we read the Word of the Lord
beneath a bare bulb, translating
scripture into every language,
in every tongue told again
that our flesh is more than flesh.

Until one day an error was made 
in my favor: my number on the list 
of those to be released, like a ledger, 
balanced, with the living and the dead.  


Renee Emerson

Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014) and Threshing Floor (Jacar Press 2016). She earned her MFA in poetry from Boston University, where she was also awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2009. In 2016, she was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the Arkansas Arts Council. She is also the author of three chapbooks of poetry: Where Nothing Can Grow (Batcat Press, 2012), The Whitest Sheets (Maverick Duck Press, 2011), and Something Like Flight (Sargent Press, 2010). Her poetry has been published in 32 Poems, Christianity and Literature, Indiana Review, Literary Mama, Southern Humanities Review, storySouth, and elsewhere; her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize on three occasions. Renee teaches online classes for Shorter University and The Poetry Barn, and she lives in Arkansas with her husband and four daughters.

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