Counting bones instead of candles


The whispers are always here

I hear their voices even as I sweep – like dark spirits hovering over me saying “careful, careful, don’t knock the bones.”

The guards with their black boots tell me to hurry or I might be next.

If they hear the voices, they do not say so, yet they hear the bones rattle as the broom pushes them across the floor.

The ovens are already dark, stained black with soot that never comes clear – even though I scrub and scrub.

I fear the dark when the voices talk most, and when I can almost see the shapes kneeling on the ground like grotesque gargoyles begging guards for mercy none of us ever expects them to grant.

I think often of my last birthday – before the soldiers came – and my mother making me a cake with ten candles on it.

Warsaw seems years ago and I feel so old, as ancient as my grandmother, though I will see no candles this year and I am afraid to count.

The guards – for amusement – sometimes ask me to count the bones, needing to make certain that all who walked in come out again, bones piled high in the barrel I push.

I don’t know which one is my mother’s or my father’s.

Once, I dreamed of killing those who killed them.

My nights are filled with revenge my days never see.

I cannot dream. Or maybe the dreams I do dream are so filled with the voices I know no longer have the ability to speak, and I see their shadows day light or night, of people who have already turned to dust.

Once I believed someone might save me before my voice turned to whispers and my body turned to dust. But now I sweep and scrub and count the bones, waiting for my time when someone else will sweep me up.



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