A Songbird’s Distraction


Big boy, small town, with a river running down, past the meadows, where I’m typically found.

Flat Cap, brown shorts, and a white-sleeve top with a straw at the end of my mouth.

Oak tree, above me, with songbirds singing,

A duet, to the water trickling.

It’s a sunny day, in the 1930’s, Mercedes roaming at a distance, streets behind me.

“Shalom”, to the tensed men, everywhere I went.

I get home, hushed whispers, the family stressed. I keep distracted.

That night, in bed, I hear screams, in my dreams… Except they weren’t happening in my sleep.

I woke up, to the same frequency, beyond my window, streets filled with distressed signals.

Men with guns, pulling people apart.

Some in a truck, some in a line, and the ones that didn’t want to be in either, ended up spread across the ground, then into a pile.

Heart racing, sweat perspiring. Men now stand over my mattress.

German tone, human hands, I’m grabbed and dragged from whence I lay.

Taken outside, and alongside my family, my mother hugs me. I choose to see only the unified work boots of our captor.

Mother on one truck, father on another, wherever I was taken I did not stop staring at the rythmic march of this man’s black jackboots.

The calls of my name, turns to a muffle, by my father’s deep shouts, a now distant loud round, silencing an end.

And I never look behind me.

Strangers surrounding, we piled in compartments, on a train to nowhere, for the first time ever.

A space enclosed with fencing, cabins with many beds, striped clothing awaiting wearing.

The stones on the ground were beautiful that day.

Days passed, the smell of waste, the begging of men and women and the cries of the decaying. Each of these lessened as the days went onwards.

Years later, boy, no, I think now a man, malnourished. With no thought but the hug of a mother I never saw again.

A sickness of the mind forming. Nothing to do.

As I look through the same gap of a fence line, a different camp location, scenes across the landscape change too.

I see a dead tree with still water, evolved swamp.

Faint taste of rotten straw, a skull of a songbird.

The squirming feast of worms, failed artistry replacing those tones of beauty, and in my hand the last piece of bread that will never end up stomached.

My mind now dead, my head droops forward, my breath shallow, I watch myself soil. Trickling down my leg and out from my pants, it makes its way over the stones and under the fence. The transfer from breath to liquid, and then erosion as I’m on the other side at last.

The perfect distraction unfolding.

Now as the land rots, as the heart of this man that never was, stops, beyond the corpse, just a mile down the road and beyond the meadow… Humans like him, born differently.

Laughing around a table over the aroma of fresh toasted bread, sensory heightening, filling clean noses.

There’s another boy distracted with the songbirds perched on the window.

The door opens, his older brother has come home. Taking off his black jackboots, greeting loved ones in the background.