We walk among the dense stones,
a haunting place half a millennium old.
Here the bones of twenty thousand
Jews once enfleshed in the first ghetto,
lie in twelve layers of soil, their tombs
sprinkled with prayers on torn paper
and pebbles to hold them in place.
The headstonesí Hebrew letters
and family inscriptions have crumbled
to sand, words whipped by centuries
of wind. Stone slabs lean
against each other like victims
in camps of suffocation,
shoveled into stacked graves.
On the south side, synagogue walls
burn with dates of birth and death
culled from Nazisí transport files,
floor to ceiling carved
and recarved, hands still grooving
their story in stone. Out of nights
darker than the heart of rock,
the dead rise from ash
like gulls forever in flight,
feathers trusting the rush of wind.
© 1995, Kay Mullen
Kay Mullen is a school counselor living in Renton, WA. Her poetry has been published in The Antigonish Review and M.E.N.ís Magazine.