Monday, February 3, 2014


March 26th 1911
Temporary morgue

Rose knew.
Of course she knew.
The whole city had seen the flames,
had seen the men and women sobbing,
had seen the sons and daughters leaping
their clothing on fire as they struck cement.

But she had hoped.
Oh, God, she had hoped.
It was Shabbat and he was going
to see her after sundown.
She waited and prayed,
and when he didn't come, she knew.
Of course she knew.

They led her through the room,
filled with bodies blackened
or twisted,
bones at every angle.
Some had parents
brothers, cousins
weeping over them.
Some were alone
as people filed past.

Box 34.
It was the ring that caught her eye
like the one on her finger. She took the hand--
what was left of a hand
and she knew.
The body was nothing like her Joseph
charred beyond recognition.
Oh, God, she would never kiss his lips.

Her breath caught in her lungs
and she tasted ash,
could feel heat on her skin.
The screaming that had echoed in the square
echoed in her ears.
She stared at what was left
of his face.

"Joseph," she said
when the attendant asked who he was.
"Oh, God, he was only twenty-two."
The man nodded, wrote
something on a tag.
"His watch, do you have his watch?"
He nodded, and handed Rose a box.
Fitting, his last tie to home would be
her last tie to him.

She cradled it in her hands, pulled out
his pocket watch, all he owned of value,
and opened it, gently, as he had.
The glass was cracked
the hands unmoving
and from the opposite side beamed her face.
Like glass, her heart splintered.

She sank to her knees, sobs tearing at her throat,
and understood wanting sackcloth and ashes.
She wanted to keen her grief to the heavens. 
She wanted to rip her shirtwaist and wail
How could this happen?

Oh, God, we were to be married in June.

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