She blesses each long thin candle one by one
twisting their shy little necks into the hollow brass
fingers, thumb and index brittle as bone.
All evening, a pale light lingers—
our living room alive with shadow play
the curtain a stage, a Chinese theater.
Nana’s voice is the voice of the dead
gathering in her, swelling in her throat
like a column of smoke, her tiny prayer book
lit fire in her hands.
after a scene from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah
Do not say bodies. Do not say corpses.
Do not mouth the names of the dead
in the earth: your wife, your three daughters.
Tears are verboten. Just cart them off
to the incinerator—they are rags,
shmattes. They use the Yiddish word
so it smarts. Hesitate and they club you
with the butt of a gun. I had a beautiful voice
once, my throat was a river of song
before the silvered tongue was torn from it.
"Schneller!" they bark. And when it’s over
after even the bones are churned to dust
they’ve saved a bullet for my neck. Tak, tak.
Poles stand around drinking vodka, laughing.
Marc Alan Di Martino is a Pushcart-nominated poet, translator and author of the collection Unburial (Kelsay, 2019). His work appears in Baltimore Review, Rattle, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, Valparaiso Poetry Review and many other journals and anthologies. His second collection, Still Life with City, will be published by Pski's Porch in 2021. He lives in Italy.