from American Samizdat
When I was a child, I lived in a country flattened
by the marching boots of history.
A siren guarded the capital with her sword.
From the river, she saw prisoners pushed
past gates, governments turned to smoldering.
Later, someone stole her crown.
What I learned: national songs can sound like prayers
for the dead, and the body of laws
is a body beaten, made to stand for days,
winter blowing through the open door.
I read about brass plaques
buried in the sidewalk.
Called stumbling stones,
they make the traveler stop
to read what’s written there—
a name engraved, a date,
history a rock protruding.
But this is a new world,
and the streets are paved over.
Who will mark the places
where we sleep. Who will
rub our memory in the dirt.
I keep receiving boxes filled with air,
delivered overnight by carriers
who do not knock or ring the bell.
What it means to be modern—
packages of breath in plastic pouches.
I puncture them with a knife
to hear them gasp
like someone learning of a death.