11th July

Today I speak

Do you hear me?

Not in the tear of my dress

From the hem to the neck

Nor the clinks of the belts

Leathering us together

Nor in the wail of the child left behind

To the tread of boots

Trying to march to safety.

Do you see me?

Not in the burns on my flesh

Nor the bite marks on my breasts

Nor in the glints of glass

Sitting in kidney trays

Removed from wombs.

More than the names upon names

Gathered in green boxes at the end of a page

Or in pocket book images of

clothes, berry stained.

Do you think it’s my cry you hear

From the sargija’s hollow?

Caustic, strained, strange.

You won’t find me

among the archives tallying the dead.

In the absence of our men we kept

our home fires burning,

fought as best as we could

while white eagles descended.

The kilns of the battlefield became our wombs instead.

Sedated, we ploughed through

Stomachs gnawing as men walked close by,

bodies trembled at a glimpse of uniform

as we tried to stand upright and defy

the image of victim, the secret, the shame.

This was not our doing, it was done to us

as the world sang ‘never again’.

Our voices rise

hoping someone will listen,

the tentative tongue

belongs to thousands of others, absent.

Will you ever hear them all?

Let their lives unfold a rich tapestry, now gone?

Can you see them lying among the forests now,

scented with lilies?

Do you recognise this strength, my resilience, my name?

Do you know me?

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