I don’t want to see their bodies
like soft antlers in those ditches
and be afraid
I can’t endure it.
I don’t want to know that only hair
and jewelry could be sifted from
their ashes. That only leather shoes
under glass at Yad Vashem recall
the children’s bodies in blackened piles
and the horror of this language.
Only what you can carry.
Letters in the pockets
of the dead, their words
still fading. Names
signed with sloping letters.
Evidence of folding and re-folding,
that small comfort. Say
their names. Every object illuminated
by what they still account
and can’t account for.
A daughter’s locket.
A father’s wristwatch. A young
wife’s tattered veil. Found stolen
or half-burned or left
where history stopped carrying
what it couldn’t keep
us from forgetting. Their bodies tell
one story, pale and crowded over
one another in erasure. Every photo
glinting, the way a child
stares bravely above the eye
of a bullet, into the blur
of a man from another country, living
by another law. Who has only weaponry
for hands. And only hands, regardless.
I used to stand in the shower
and imagine slipping out
of the arms of my mother, pulled
by my arm like a wishbone,
afraid to lose sight of my sister.
They both have always
been calling my name
like a song. I wanted
something, at least, to remember.
but the blank acceptance that some questions
can’t be answered, that never forget and
yitgadal vyitkadash and small stones
left like monuments
and yahrzeit candles for relatives
I’ll never know the names of
and a memorial for children–
their long dark soothed with
flecks of light–
our Yisrael. Our own
arms returned to us, as you are
returned from the dream
where what was contended once
is lied, small
as a wrestled angel
in the strength of scritpure’s hands.
Sasha Leshner is a poet and editor from Brooklyn, New York. Her work draws on the intersections between art, memory, and the poetic possibilities inherent to any attempt at articulation. She has earned an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, and completed her undergraduate degree at NYU. Her work can be found published and forthcoming from Pour Vida Zine, ExPat Press, the luma foundation, 89+, west 10 magazine, and others. Her poems are dedicated to the beloveds who beat her to the next world.