Erasure

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The necessity of being

Men came out

Women emerged

No children

The children were gone

What happened the first month?

Outside bars and cement

Away from gas chamber

When legs and arms, mere bone

Unshackled could move once more

How

Did you pick up your lives then?

Learn the grace of living 

No one has ever said

Something so horrific cannot be vented

It can only transform into fire

from survival we are born, once more

A second life

Not a child, not young

Nor unscathed, but covered in scars

They are our metal, winking silver and rose 

We do not stand in new bones

But those that know the feeling of kneeling

Begging for the end to come

And when it did not

When we survived

Despite their best attempt to smother

It is a land of ash and terror 

To navigate and put back together

Those shattered pieces of self 

Willing meaning from devestation

How? 

With the blood of ancestors, fresh

Seeing them led to their deaths

Courage in silence, in suffering

How?

When nothing is left but the last straw 

And it erupts into flame, burning everything you were

How?

Do you design again a day, a week, a year?

With a face enured by fear

Used to screaming in the dark

How?

To go past the horror and walk into a new life?

We do it by taking the broken pieces of us

Head in the oven, wrists slashed in bathroom

Pill bottles strewn about like flotsum

All our aborted attempts to shut the terror out

We take the gore and the furnace

The golem and the hangman

In our minds eye we stand among graves

Tasting human ash whilst behind us chambers cough out families

And if that doesn’t kill us 

Nothing ever will

Because when you stand on the far side of fear

Your heart extinguished and cold, a lifeless thing

There is only survival

We are the feral leftovers

We rebuilt ourselves from nothing 

Like from clay we came, so again, a second coming

To defy the proximity of evil

We are the ones who refused to cease

Standing when nothing held us up

But the necessity of being

(For all who perished in the death camps and all who survived.)

Cockroach

lady-insects-3Woman

looked up in to sky

saw there

her future

we are cockroaches

she told her husband that evening at dinner

as he sat trying to eat fast so he could check his messages

annoyed and perpetually irritated with her queries and words

he wished momentarily he could seal her in an Amazon Prime box

and return her with a free print it yourself label

if only marriage were as easy as that to dissolve

okay I’ll take the bait, why are we cockroaches?

he replied eventually with a weary voice, if only to get her to stop

standing with wet hands from washing in the kitchen center

unaware of how absurd and unattractive she was

with her rolled shoulders and sagging bust line

why can’t she look like the girls I subscribe to?

a lazy thought passed behind his eyes as he vainly tried

and failed

to show a modicum of interest

we are cockroaches she repeated

her face blazing underneath the low hanging light fixture

he’d installed badly

because bees and frogs and bats

if they die out we all go

BAM!

She slapped her red hands together making a strange squelching sound

her lips twitching oddly

But if we

with our Sistine chapels, Leonardo’s

drive-in Sonic Burger, Schlitterbahn water parks

Round-Up, teenage sized tampons and driverless cars

if we die … IF WE DIE!

Her voice raised an octave and dominated the quiet room

he thought her shrill and unbearable

a streak of sweat

began to gnaw at his calf as it ran slowly toward his socks

socks she had to bleach after he left them unwashed and yellowed in his cupboard

resisting the urge to itch he tried to stay motionless, could it be if he blinked she would be gone?

If we die NOTHING HAPPENS!

But if we live … as we live … when we have lived

such a short time comparatively if you think

watch the years before us, long and steady

now watch the timeline unruffled by menace

as we come into being that trajectory takes on an awful shape

the shape of destruction! Not only will nothing happen to every other living thing

on earth if we are not here to witness it

but the damage we have wrought in such a short time!

so much damage!

we breed animals and slaughter them inhumanely in abattoirs

we condemn Nazi’s for gassing Jews and gypsies

but how are some of our actions so different?

we deny basic healthcare to our most vulnerable citizens

and call ourselves progressive or worse

blame those who are not able

to defend themselves

He wiped his face with his meaty hand; This isn’t going to be another vegetarian rant is it?

rubbing the sweat from underneath his eyes

it seemed to be getting very hot in the room

there wasn’t any chilli in dinner was there? He asked as

something seemed to stick quite determinedly in his throat

feeling nauseous he reached for the glass of water

it looked like it was sweating too

the room was too hot

turn the damn air conditioning up he raised his voice and began

to sound as shrill as she had

you know nothing you say will stop me eating meat

and I don’t agree with you but then thinking about it

I rarely do

you care about abstracts

you point to diagrams that show ‘evolutionary’ destruction at the hands of humanity

and even if this is so

look at our progress

look at our knowledge

What knowledge? What mercy?

We still can’t cure the common cold

she retorted with her back turned to him

she appeared to be drying the dishes he couldn’t remember giving her

the room was spinning

I don’t feel well, he said

lurching slightly in place

I wouldn’t think you would

she replied, he could not see her face

only the stains of sweat underneath her thick arms

reaching around like hands behind her

you always felt animals were equal to us and they just aren’t

he tried to modulate his voice but it had grown

distant

as if he were contained within glass being slowly

pressed

like a spider you find in the tall grass and collect

for Monday’s school project

I don’t feel well, he repeated

his eyes rolling in their waxy sockets, his tongue lolling

ungraciously

that would be the castor bean oil

I mixed it into your dinner

she said

as calm as if she were saying out loud

Sunday’s grocery list or tonight’s TV programming

and shutting the kitchen door

she left her husband

who by now was unable to speak

a small mercy for them both

and taking off her house slippers she stepped out

into the back where the mature trees reached high into the night

and began

very purposely and with great care

to dig a hole

deep enough to bury

a cockroach

Iris Chang (part of the #unsung heroes series)

Iris-Chang-264x400

Why must the insightful carry the greatest weight?

in their teeth like a bit crunching down until they break

teeth all over the place, white against the dark

enamel lasts long after we are gone

your words are never broken Iris

the love others held for you cannot be undone

by spectacle or ire, you are immune now

as beautiful as you were in life your memory not forgotten

eulogized in statues and prophecy, courage in bronze

such is the legacy of those who live to help others

you shone a light where no light had been shone

perhaps it invited unbidden demons and the silk worm

perhaps it made you mad and rageful in Louisville

who can say what fuse is lit, how long it burns or

whether others haunt us to our fatal choice?

but who would not feel horror when unveiled

the gruesome atrocity of what humans are capable

your Nanking chronicles, bravely revealed

blowing your silver whistle over lies

whether secret hands held you down

commanding, speak not, no more truth released

or you became absorbed in the tragedy you wrote

my hope is you gaze down, aware of the love held

your beautiful face gracing the cover of your mom’s book

a legacy unfurling, one step, two, ever more

you will always rise higher than you thought

such is the way of the guide

needing sometimes to turn from her gift back to the world

to see the beauty held in their own

reflection

 

“The woman who could not forget: Iris Chang before and beyond The Rape of Nanking by Ying-Ying Chang (mom) and The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang.”

part of the hash-tag #unsung (heroes) series.

Drown by weight

c92d59155b01b6e40b01bdf6db68c5b2Why

didn’t you walk the other way?

when you knew you’d flay me with your tortured need?

and why

didn’t I see ahead of time

to the days where laughter was silenced

and only sadness took the oar

out into the middle of the river

where you said

jump

it’s for the best

there’s no one here for you

anymore

I grew up thinking

loyalty and devotion would see me right

if I had just known

the more you give, the more is taken

leaving you too empty

to drown by weight