Jehanne Dubrow

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.