Poetry - Issue 19 | December 2013

Walls in Warsaw

by Michael


Walls in Warsaw

There are walls in Warsaw that did not fall.
In ’39, the Luftwaffe swept the rooftops
with a broom of fire and force that shook
homes to their elements, ripped armchairs
and table legs from their bodies. Since before
the Miracle at the Vistula, the cryptologists
and clairvoyants saw devastation coming,
heard its voice, were witnesses to the nightmare
that awaits the body as it gives in to sleep.
                              We must remember
that the frayed ends between loved ones
do not simply mend in wartime. Think of
those startled from sleep by the strikeshock,
ruptured water pipes, their neighborhood
reduced to smoke and smolder. Now think
of those startled as if they’re your daughters—
Agnieszka, Ania, Ewa—all that is familiar
to them ablaze. Imagine you have raised
those girls like windows to the street. Taught them
                              to speak on behalf
of the young dead. Hands gripped tight
as if their clutch prevented history’s retelling
with the names and stories of their classmates
omitted, knowing they may be next to be soon
forgotten. Remind them: after the orders came
to demolish the city, after firebombs fell like dead angels,
there were some walls that still stood upright,
like a classroom where every raised hand
carried the weight of remembrance, the stories
                              of those who can no longer speak.


About the author

Michael Sarnowski’s poetry can be found in Foundling Review, Memoir Journal, Potomac Review, and r.kv.r.y,, among others. He currently lives in Rochester, New York, where he is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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