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?