It was a war like any other.
One night the village danced
to the time of the fiddle; the next
there were only the sounds of smoke
and black boots. In the morning, doves
cooed among the ruins and next door
sparrows hunted abandoned walls.
Papa burying the family silver
under the startled chickens.
Mama weaving us
into the slack walls of her skirts,
Mama pinning stars onto our forearms.
The soldiers out walking their wolves.
We fled into the forests.
In the hush we waited, in the dusk
and the smell of cold. We knew only
the shelter carved into the hard
ground, the tattered snow. Ate roots
until our teeth kept time in the darkness.
When it was light enough we searched
the interlace of branches for signs
of our futures: no ark, no apple,
only a soldier dressed as a wolf.
The women turning into pillars of salt;
the women turning back into ribs.
Auf weidersehen, which meant
farewell, which meant
through the slats of the boxcar the land
rattled by, which meant the silver
stayed in the dirt, chickens
kept watch in the treetops.
Blut und Boden, which meant the ghettos
emptied, which meant the camps filled,
which meant names burned down to numbers
and smoke and nothing at all.
Kommen sie doch mal her, bitte,
which meant Onkel Mengele
selected twins, which meant
wise children slept into stone;
but there were no skirts to hide in,
no treetops to watch from, which meant
alignment on marble tables,
color injections into irises,
glass ground into wounds.
Black stitches ran the lengths of our joined sides.
Salt on our forearms.
Soldiers dressed as startled chickens.
The sounds the village danced to
meant farewell, which meant
forests. Mama burying the women.
The interlace of sounds and smoke
which meant farewell, which meant
the hard ground, which meant
the wise children.
One night kept time in the snow.
Ribs turning back into fiddles;
the pillars of hush. We searched the branches
for signs of a wolf, a dove, cold.
War like any other boxcar, which meant
black boots. Sparrows next door
meant silver. Doves carved shelter
into skirts. The women turning
into teeth. No ark. Mama pinning
Auf Weidersehen onto our forearms.
The mornings like any other wolves.