The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Yvette Neisser


“We had forgotten everything. . . . We were the only men on earth.”
--Elie Wiesel, Night

Afraid of dying without it, he ran forty miles
clutching it beneath his shirt—
keep it warm, keep the wood from cracking.
Caught in the momentum of men
hurling their bodies forward
into the ranks of snow, he trampled fathers
who sank into the white grave underfoot.

The night’s blizzard and cold
deafened his belief in beauty. White
now the color of unending nightmares,
and snow falling, a negation of future.

After humming his way through fumes
that permeated dreams and clung
to his body, imbuing him
with the scent of his own death,
it was there, in that empty-hearted night,
stumbling along the fragile trajectory
between collapse and existence—
the cacophony of barking dogs
nearly consumed his internal melodies.

But Juliek kept hold of his violin
as snow enshrouded the night’s dead.
His fingers bled into the maple’s grain.

Abandoned factory:
men piling one on another to sleep or die,
whichever might come first.
Though he could barely breathe
beneath the pressure of somebody’s back,
he scratched his way out
from the smother of bodies,
violin’s neck gripped in his fist,
bow sheltered in the crook of his arm.

Unsure if he still could create sound,
Juliek somehow navigated the instrument
through the stiffening air
until his chin found the place to rest.
He angled the bow to fathom each string,
pulled a sonata, note by note,
from the hollow vessel—a slow plea
for the beating of human hearts
muffled by snow.

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