Tall Monument That Rises Up Like A Hand

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.  

Smokestack. 

Ghetto.

 

Only what you can carry. 

Blue needles. 

Warsaw.

 

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. 

Anything

 

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.

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