Jehanne Dubrow


(with a line from the novel by D.M. Thomas)

I could not stop myself I was in flames.
Was it the shock of words like fuck and cock
or was it Babi Yar, a death that came

after four chapters filled with sex, which shamed
my hands to throw away the paperback?
I could not stop myself. I'd felt the flames

in other books before but never blamed
myself for shutting them then coming back
for more. Was Babi Yar, a death that came

and came again (pornography of pain),
somehow a better read? Or was sextalk—
I couldn't stop myself I was inflamed

—sprawled out beside the pit of stiff remains,
live body parts beside the dead, what took
me back to Babi Yar? Two deaths became

the one: the death-of-love renamed
as love-of-death, as Liebestod. Bookstruck,
I couldn't stop from bursting into flame
at this, my White Hotel, my death that came.



Shulamith, as the figure of Jewish suffering in Celan's Todesfuge, can interogate (with impunity) a text that many found simultaneously offensive, brilliant, pornographic, and derivative when it was first published. "Shulamith Reads The White Hotel" comes from a series of Shulamith poems that examines issues of representation in Holocaust literature and asks about the possibility of experiencing joy, pleasure after the Shoah.