The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Serena Alagappan

Open Wounds / Open Questions


Before there was the Second World War

there was the First World War.

Several Jews said,

I fought in the first world war

I have a scar,

not understanding that Hitler

didn't care whether you were

German or spaghetti.


I've experienced beauty and

I've hiked up in the mountain tops and

I've seen the splendor of this Earth.

God doesn’t necessarily

punish you

or care for you.


My father took a dislike to me

pretty quickly. Picked up a chair

and was going to bash it

on my head, and

my mother jumped between us.

I can’t speak for his feelings.


I certainly felt very guilty

being alive.


Politicians make war,

ordinary people pay a price. 

I still have difficulty making

myself a home. I cannot finish

my living room. I can’t do it.


Where are we going?

God doesn't have answers,

I'm used to that.

Where are we going?

You can never have the last word.




Stitched together from the testimonies of Marie-Claire Rakowski (Holocaust Survivor, France) and Helga Sheppard (Holocaust Survivor, Germany) whose stories are housed in The Religion and Resettlement Project’s oral history archive at Princeton University.




SERENA ALAGAPPAN is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she studied comparative literature and creative writing, and served as Editor-in-chief of the Nassau Weekly. Her work has been published in Scientific AmericanThe Oprah MagazineHobart, and The James Joyce Quarterly, among others. She is a commissioning editor for the Oxford Review of Books. Currently, she is pursuing an MSc in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.


Previous | Next