Untended

 

“He gets the room behind the bush,” Mama ordered.

“But Mama,” Samantha tried, “we’re in the country now.”

Mama shook her head.

Samantha swallowed a sigh. This was the middle of nowhere. No neighbors. No roads. Old growth all around. Barely a dirt path to the cottage from behind the barn.

There will be no arguing with Mama.

She caught Daniel’s eye. He did his little special wink at her and she wanted to cry. He was comforting her even though it would be he who will be stuck in a room with barely light and zero view.

His eyes flicked toward the barn, and she understood — at least in the house he’d be warm, where she could keep an eye. At least Mama wasn’t hiding him in the barn.

Mama could not stand his disfigurement. Reminder of the fire she did not tend. The baby she let burn.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Not You. Not Here.

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Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

You are not welcome.

Here.

Or anyplace that we hold

Dear.

You are unwelcome

Here.

Because you lack

The right color

Or veneer

Or gender

Or conviction,

And because you have far too much

Proclivity toward

Fear.

You are not welcome.

Here.

Though if you come,

Subservient,

Kowtowing

To us

Year by lingering

Year,

We might allow you

To remain

As long as you

Humbly

Adhere,

To our need to aggrandize

Our wrongs,

And as long as you

Declare you will

Never rise

Above a state that

Holds us as

Premier.

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all who fight ingrained injustice, racism, hate, brutality, and the historical realities of too many who bolster themselves by believing they are somehow ‘premier.’ For the record, there is nothing ‘supreme’ about anyone who claims ‘supremacy.’ There never was.

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Unwelcome in 91 words

 

 

Slip From Grip

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Enslaved persons cutting sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823, (The British Library)

 

 

She fed them well so

They would

Sleep,

And silently

She gave the slip,

To all she knew

Yet did not sweep

Away the bite

Of whip.

She fled,

So the child in

Her belly’s keep,

Would not writhe, helpless,

In another person’s

Grip.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: slip

(Note: Dedicated to all who suffered and still suffer under the yoke of injustice, discrimination, racism, and pretense. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.)

 

 

 

 

His Shadow

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Photo: Andy Falconer on Unsplash

 

They want to add more activity to his day. More interests. Better engagements. A hobby. A new skill.

They don’t understand.

He is fine during the days. It is the night that haunts him. Not the dark, but the solitude. The walls closing. The suffocating silence where his breath fills all the space till there is no air left. No room for words.

Then there’s the fatigue and how it erodes all his resistance. Lets the blackness in.

They offered medicine. Said it will help him fall asleep and stay asleep.

It did.

And it made it worse.

Now his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream and he cannot find the door to waking.

He feels mummified. Lost in the abyss of thoughts and memory.

The bombs. The mines. The child.

He couldn’t save him.

Guilt swallows all.

How could there be a dawn?

 

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all whose deepest wounds are unseen. May you find your dawn.

For the dVerse prosery challenge: maya angelou

The quote prompt: “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” from “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

 

One Face, A Whole World – Yom Ha’Shoah

 

This is the photo of Sarah Kol (1933-1944), my grandfather’s niece. She was murdered, age 11, along with her mother Ida, my grandfather’s eldest sister, and many others, by the Nazis in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

She is one of the millions lost to the rabid hate the Nazis practiced, spread, and fed.

Each one of those millions lost was an entire lost world.

Each murder left a gaping hole where their lives and accomplishments, their stories, their loves and joys, their children and grand-children who’d never be, would have been, should have been …

My grandfather lost many in his family in the Holocaust.

My grandmother lost many in hers.

Other branches of my family lost loved ones, too.

Many families lost even more.

Some have no one left to remember. Many have no photos. No one to tell their stories.

So we must. As we can. Tell of those we know.

Remember all.

Little Sarah’s is but one face of many.

Hers was a life all its own. Snuffed out but not forgotten.

May her memory be a blessing.

May all their memories be a blessing. Six million. More. So we remember.

So we never forget.

Little Sarah, you were born but a year before my mother. The Nazis killed you, but they could not kill your memory. You live in each of us. The memory of your mother and siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles lives on, too. I see your face in my sisters and many cousins and nieces.

We are you.

And we remember.

 

 

The Two Stones

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She shivered in the early winter chill and pulled the woolen cloak around her. The wind whipped her hair – always unruly – into her eyes. Her fingers stung. The day was above freezing, but the cold damp still had a way of swimming through her clothing to steal away her body heat. Her face felt stiff and she rubbed her hand over her cheeks and chin to warm them.

She picked up her pace only to slow down again once she neared the stream. The slope was treacherous and she did not fancy the possibility of a dunking in the bone-chilling water. How different this was, she mused, from the summer days of her childhood, when along with friends she had raced down the slope with the absolute intention of being the first to splash in.

The stream had seemed bigger then. Wilder and yet in some ways tamer.

She did not know at the time the other stories it could hold. The risk it would foreshadow.

She was still an innocent then.

As if in answer to her mood, the wind picked up and buffeted the edges of her cloak around her legs, threatening to unclothe her. She pressed her lips together in determination and shook her head. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

Not again.

The stream was lower than expected for the time of year, but she knew the looks could be deceiving. It wasn’t just depths that could kill you. Or the flow.

She picked her way carefully to the bank. She stood a few yards downstream from the ancient laundering stones that jutted at the widening where the narrow brook burbled into a seemingly placid pool before splashing down in tiny waterfalls at the other end. The women still used the flat rocks when she was a young girl. They’d crouch on the stone to slap the fabric as the stream carried away the suds and dirt and the occasional bloody stain.

Moss now covered the stones and she knew it wasn’t just the change of season that had led to the greening. Women had laundered in all seasons. They’d break through thin ice to brave the numbing cold if they had to.

But no one had used the rocks for a long time now.

Perhaps not once since.

It had been a late summer day, the warm air filled with scents of aging flowers and over-ripe fruit and a whiff of sweat. There was the ‘thwack, thwack’ of scythes from the fields and the hum of bees and the calls of children and the wailing of a baby, cranky for the breast. The laundering stones were draped with wet fabric, the water foaming slightly with the soaps.

Then came the scream.

The rush.

The hush.

The wide-eyed horror.

Two small children, tangled in a vine, floated to bump against the rocks at the end of the pool, the current threatening to carry them over and downstream. Like broken puppets on a string.

They’d been playing and must have banged heads under water, or on a sharp rock, or on some other, less understood, thing. Their thrashing would have been noticed, but they must have been lost to the loud playfulness of others, or to the slap of clothing and the scrape of washers against stone. Or to how quickly they dropped.

She shuddered as the image superimposed itself on the empty coldness.

Everything changed after that. She only came here one other time since. And not with company.

The family of the man who had been a child at the time still wielded power in the town. She wouldn’t have been believed if she had told, that the dreamy boy who liked to twirl in the sun and who no one dared tease, had drawn a slingshot in mid-dance and used his spin to hurl small sharp stones into the children’s temples. The “thwack, thwack” was not only from scythes. She wouldn’t have been believed if she’d blamed him for the death of her pet rabbit, even though she’d seen him kill the trusting ball of fluff. Or for holding her down and poking her where no one should. She kept quiet and let the secret nibble holes in her insides.

It wouldn’t have brought the children back.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, bending to touch the water with her fingertips.

The bodies had long been buried, but their souls could not be. Not without the truth.

She rose and wrapped the cloak tightly around her. The clouds gathered and she saw a crack of lighting in the distance. A low rumble chased it, chastening or soothing, she could not tell.

She forced the air into her lungs and turned away.

She will be leaving again. The secret will remain.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

 

Up In Smoke

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Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

Portal To Tomorrow

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

In the portal to

Tomorrow

Let the trumpets

Ring not

Alarm

And rush to

Harm,

But stop to the

Hubris

Of war.

In the portal for

Tomorrow

May those men

Who rashly

Spend

The life of

Others,

Know the call

Of trumpets

Often heralded

Only pain,

More gore.

Enough.

Enough.

No more.

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Portal

 

 

Over Barricaded

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Photo: Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

 

There was a wall in there.

A barricade against the world.

He’d built it, bit by bit, from hurts and slights and bigger woes.

And hid.

Within.

Where he thought he’d be safe, and from where he could watch from a distance, reassured by barriers and gates and locks and elaborate booby-traps that made sure no one got too close.

There was a wall in there.

And a moat.

Alligators, too. For insurance.

Only that they had become hungry with the years, as less people even attempted to get near him, and therefore there was less bait.

So that he was, in many ways, imprisoned.

He’d been young when he’d built the wall, and he didn’t plan ahead. So needy of a solid barricade he’d been, that he never made a way to unlock the gate.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Barricade in 136 words

 

 

Fortified

 

They’d fortified the ceiling.

So they said.

The old structure needed periodical reinforcing.

So they said.

The thickness of the walls supported their claims. The deeply recessed windows. The heavy coats of paint on ancient plaster.

‘Twas all a ruse. Of course.

The false ceiling hid a warren of crawl-spaces and narrow hiding places. A stream of escaped slaves was followed by a flood of those fleeing Nazi persecution and thereafter a steady trickle of modern-day refugees.

The ceiling hid them all. Young and old. Broken and defiant. Desperate and bewildered. Men and women and the all-too-heartbreaking child.

Some stayed a night. Others for longer sheltering. Hilda had stayed the longest. A girl on arrival, she was almost a woman at war’s end. She emerged educated. In silence. In stealth. In compassion.

She became the guardian of those who followed.

Fortified with hope of one day needing it no more.

 

 

 

For the Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Dedicated to all the heroes who — often at tremendous risk to themselves — had managed to shelter the needy, the desperate, the voiceless, and the vulnerable during times of injustice, persecution, violence, horror, and hate. To all who do so still. May we one day need to do so no more.