Something in Writing

There is something in writing

                greater than the simple groups of letters

                            through which we meet our restless thoughts,

                            which breathes a vibrant life into the words,

                that transcends sentences of meaning,

that recreates something in reading.

Last Jew in Vinnitsa

An officer shoves me to the edge of the pit.
“Kneel!” he screams.
My knee sinks into the mud at the brink,
and I look in and see death,
twisted and tangled in bare heaps of limbs,
contorted unnaturally on the faces of children,
their eyes as wide and scared and lifeless
as those of the bigger bodies around them.
They were shot in lines that moved forward as one,
sometimes holding hands as the soldiers
took aim and fired.
There is no line for me because
there is no one left to shoot.
Entire families gone.
Entire swaths of the city erased,
the ghettos as empty as their vacant eyes.
And I am the last one.
The last Jew in Vinnitsa.
I lock eyes with a face below me.
We have much in common:
both brown-haired, both Jews, both dead.
I feel a barrel press against my skull.
“Wait, you dummkopf, you’ll get his filthy brains
all over you if you shoot him like that.
Step back, and wait for the picture:
this is the last one, after all.”
“Look up!”
I stare at the blurring face while
the photographer makes a few adjustments.
A breeze plays gently with my hair.
“Look up, Schwein!”
I wonder who will see this picture.
I inhale deeply and raise my eyes.
A flash of light—


JWNODY Before Exit

A woman with short hair and a red sweater
smiles into the camera as she explains
that she’s been very busy lately,
and her mind is a little jumbled.
She’s been preparing to meet Ti
and the other level-above-humans
in a ship behind the Hale-Bopp comet,
which is passing by Earth a few days prior
to the planet’s recycling.
She talks about business and
casually recounts a few anecdotes.
With a coquettish grin she tells the group’s clients:
“you might need to get someone else
to finish up your website right now.”
There is chuckling behind the camera.
“And one last thing we’d like to say is”
here she taps the space above her left breast,
Star Trek style,
“Thirty-nine to beam up.”
More laughter this time.
Someone claps as the clip fades.
On the surface it’s just a funny way to end a vlog,
only she isn’t joking.
They really were all taken away—
in body bags after they killed themselves.

Lexi (#BringLexiHome)

Legal papers litter the table,
the family huddles together in the living room.
It’s time to say goodbye.
There’s a desperate sucking of air
through tear-burdened throats
as they hug each other one last time.
A sibling hands her a teddy bear.
“We’ll get you back,”
her mother chokes on the words,
her eyes wide and wet.
“Don’t let them take me, Mommy!
“I don’t wanna go, please…”
Her dad scoops her up and kisses her,
breathing in her smell.
“I know, sweetheart,” he says, his voice shaking.
“We’ll get you back. I promise.
Be strong for me, okay?”
“Okay,” but the tears don’t stop.
He carries her to the door
she’s been in and out of most of her life,
only this time she might never come back in.
Her mother clutches her hand
as she leads her siblings behind.
Outside is a flag over the garage,
a crowd of protestors,
and a black car that will take her away.
Shutters snap as they walk under the flag,
her sister breaks away, screaming:
Her mother holds her back with one arm,
she screams too:
“I love you, Lexi!”
There is no fear in her voice,
but it’s there, in her eyes.
The girl is strapped into the car with strangers.
Her small hands clutch at the bear.
Her father says goodbye through blurry eyes.
“We’ll fight for you, Lexi!”
They walk back under the red, white, and blue flag,
because this is America,
where 1.56% Choctaw blood
is more important than a family.

Swing Set

It’s a brisk morning,
the kind that only comes on the cusp of spring
where the sun is high and warm and
burns the frost off the greening grass
but hasn’t yet burned it from the air.
It’s cold, I tell her as I go out.
She pushes hard on the screen door
and steps barefoot onto the concrete,
holding her arms up toward me
and trying to dance away the cold.
She’s still in her shrinking, mismatched Pjs.
There’s a hole in her left pant leg.
Get me get me!
I pick her up and carry her with me to the shed,
showing her how the latch on the fence works,
letting her open it when we come back through.
Daddy, what dat?
She points to the swing set.
We found it on a yard sale page,
dog-chewed and sun-stained
and free.
I scavenged and swapped out parts for her,
but winter hasn’t let her play on it yet.
That’s your swing set. Wanna try it out?
I put her on the see-saw.
Hold on tight, sweetheart.
I push her as the wind blows.
The sunlight bleaches her hair,
and her laughter mingles with the bird songs.
Tomorrow is the Equinox,
but, for me it’s spring already.

The Little Red House (Bunker 1)

I wonder who the mason was;
I wonder why he labored—
and if he worked alone,
rolling wheelbarrow-loads of brick and mortar,
making tracks other wheelbarrows would follow later,
laden with bodies instead of bricks.
Was he the same Polish peasant
who was evicted in March of 1942?
I suppose if he hadn’t built the house
they would have used another—
they used another anyway—
but would he have continued
eating meals on the half-finished walls,
discarding wax paper where a mass grave would lay,
and singing as he worked,
mixing mortar and laying bricks and building walls—
would he have continued if he had known
how many would would die trapped inside them,
how many children would breathe their last
little breaths of noxious air
while their parents yelled and clawed
their fingers off on the walls, frantic,
begging down the little red house
that what he was building up?

Recipie: Life of Sam Bartholomew

Makes one serving.

Open one large package of unapologetic nerdiness.
Pour entire contents into large bowl.
Add 2 rounded scoops of addictive personality,
1 scoop of skepticism, and
one half scoop of confidence in abilities.
Shake in inordinate amount of short-lived but fervent interest in everything.
Fold in family time, literature, learning, and video games until mixture takes on hectic look.
Leave some room for homework (optional).
Add four tablespoons of childish/reckless behavior.
Add half a pinch of patience (to be used very sparingly).
Pour caution into separate bowl.
Open window and throw contents into wind.
Collect what remains and as afterthought to be sprinkled to taste(optional).

Pour mixture into a 5 foot 7 inch pan.
Bake at 98.6 degrees for 25 years.

Warning, final product may not appear this aged externally.

Chill and serve.

Tosha – a poem inspired by Art Spiegelman’s MAUS

It’s the last of her prized possessions:
a plate her grandmother gave to her as a wedding gift.
Her water-wrinkled fingers trace the red lacework around the edges.
She almost smiles.
A staccato of shots rings out through the brick corridors of houses
and in through the kitchen window.
Her hands freeze mid-scrub.
There is screaming in the streets.
Black coats and gold stars rush from the sound of death.
“What’s happening?” she yells to a friend.
“We’re to report to the square immediately for relocation—to Auschwitz!
Tosha… I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but
they’ve killed the council of elders.”
The words break over her like a crushing wave
of frigid water, pounding the air from her lungs.
She doesn’t see the friend go.
“Persis,” she whispers,
the hair on the back of her neck standing up.
Only when the runner makes the announcement to her neighbor does Tosha begin to shake.
“They’re sending all of us to Auschwitz!”
Her skin is cold with sweat.
Out of habit she scrubs the dish
and rinses it with tears.
They had hoped it would never come to this;
that’s why they’d agreed to take the children.
They had a better chance here
under the protection of her husband in the council.
Now, the council had been liquidated,
and the rest of the ghetto was next in line.
A picture seized her mind.
A great black oven with red hatch eyes mocks her,
and a glowing, grated grin opens,
the tongue extending and rolling the children—
God, her children!—
into the flames.
She tries to put the plate away,
but then the oven chews them with its fiery teeth,
and the screams…
The plate shatters onto the floor.
The game in the other room ends abruptly;
little feet patter on hard wood;
little eyes find her kneeling on the broken fragments.
“An Tosha, you’we bweeding!”
Yes, they had hoped this day would never come,
but they had planned for it nonetheless.
Her fingers clutch the vial hung around her neck.
“Awe you otay, Antie?”
She doesn’t want to frighten them,
but she won’t let the monsters eat her children—
no matter what.
She looks at each of them,
“Yes, sweethearts,
Auntie just needs to take her medicine.
Would you like to try some?”
“Can we hab shugaw wif it?”
She blinks back the tears and forces a sad smile.
“Of course, darlings.”
They each take their teaspoon,
and the Gestapo find their bodies the next day.