The Devouring, Stalingrad
Our babies, creamy as lilies, have run away
and have buried their songs in the deep woods.
We put down our fiddles to look for them
as we hastily cut out a moon from thick yellow
paper and stitch it to the sky for light.
In the distance, we see a little man with a string
moustache, resembling Charlie Chaplin and driving
a blood red car whose windows disappear
in a snowstorm of ashes.
A trail of fine light leads us, like a changeling
in a paper hat banging a scarred tin drum.
Then we see the chimneys, a ring toss of blisters
on the swollen sky, and we are circled slowly
by a bracelet of wolves.
In the Nativity scene that forms in front of us,
the manger is empty and the three wisemen have been
carefully clipped from the picture.
Little Mengele angels swing from the Christmas
star on enamel hooks.
As we take off our jackets with their bright embroidered
flowers, and watch them blossom sullenly in the dust,
we realize finally that the king of the gypsies
has no real kingdom and is only a myth without a crown.
As the moon unravels into darkness and all the treetops
dissolve into barbed wire, we slip into the showers,
our bare bodies glistening like the scales of fishes,
our black hair shorn like winter wheat.
We pick up the soap, smooth as a glass eye,
and scrub and scrub and as the soap lathers
and fills our hands with faded colors, the ghosts
of our children move through our fingers like bubbles,
their slippery souls tearing loose like bright kites
in the sooty air.
White star on white water
white voices crocheting themselves
into sentences brittle as glass
Aryan limbs blackening like bad fruit
Aryan fingertips caramelized like linen
stiffened in tea
In loosely-knotted groups, they sit
and slice the snow like a roast
arrange it neatly on empty plates
and raise a cold toast from empty glasses
The world they are set in, like hard blue
diamonds on their prongs, is as dark white
as the inside of an avalanche
German songs, hollow as flutes, sieve them-
selves through the spume of Russian ballads
A man with an empty half moon on his boot tip
sings a stanza of "O Tannenbaum" as men,
swaddled tightly in snow, sit breaking lumps
of invisible bread
Several of them draw the profile of Napoleon
in the snow, with the tip of a skinny stick
and hope drains out through a hole in the heart
One by one, men are hammered into sculptures
by a mallet of thickening ice
The Russian ground marbleizes beneath them
and coughs out their bones like a thorn
in the throat and the desultory seasons,
dragging a thin needle of ice and a tinted
thread of sun, sew what remains into a
loose tapestry of sorts
Here and there, a dry bone catches on a belt
buckle, like a fish on a rusty hook
A field of limbs browns to the color of
Only the snow, allows them a meager mantle
of respect and covers them reluctantly
with its white wing
In Spring, they bloom once more, like cautionary
tales, suggesting a chiseled dinosaur garden
in an old museum
in a dark alley
and no longer listed on any map.