In 1900 in a small town in Germany, an 18-year-old Christian boy named Ernst Winter was brutally murdered. The small Jewish populations of the town was accused of ritual murder, sparking a series of riots and killings against Jews throughout Germany.
The birds in Konitz have begun singing backwards
their song a garbled wail
like Ernst serenading a girl
his neck, a gaping crimson grin
or the mourners’ kaddish
floating out of a synagogue in flames.
My people, we always end up burning
in the ricochet of our last moments on shower tile
in the still of the study before
the first stone splintered glass onto carpet.
Don’t you see,
we have been having Kristallnacht since
before Adolf took his first breath
after Ernst took his last.
The birds fly south
a warning of winter
and I do not know if they mean the boy or
the cold that will return his body to soil
that frost over his smirk
hidden in the reeds
like a lost ball, waiting for his father
to take him home to the rest of him.
They said it was a Kosher cut
neck, torso, each muscled arm
and I can recognize all the
shadows they make of us
my father’s in his kippah and tallit
my mother’s eyes, dark, perfume spiced
me, in my shabbat best
catching the blond boy’s eye from across the square
oh how history echoes my sweet
how it leaps through time and place
and we, we never have a martyr for it;
when my people die, it is always together.