Her War Ghosts

By Heather M. Browne

Posted on

The ghosts she did not know
 Tinged her days, sepia shaded longing
Sadness touching upon celebrations

 Cooling the edges, chilling
 her laughter

The ghosts she did not know
  Painted her moments, washing her walls
 Their shadowy silhouettes hanging
 Among family portraits
 Photos of before or now lined the walls, never then 

She looked into the eyes of her grandmother
Grandfather, uncle, aunts

 Days, years, months before, lightness, light
 Family she’d never meet
 Or know
 She looked at their mouths, soft
 Their hands, open
 Their bellies, full
 Her parents never spoke of what happened
 Only these three photos remained, hung

Walking the hall she struggled to capture their voices
 Their words, alert to prick their whisperings
 She could sense their muffled background rumblings

Standing before their faces she could feel the rise
 Their anger stirring, her hatred mounting, stomach rolling
 Her family had been taken
 Ripped from all they’d known, stripped
 Down to nothing, nothing but flesh and bones
 Their bodies burned
 The dust of their debris covering everything, falling

She moved to Papa and Mama’s portrait, young then, before
A spring dance, lace, chiffon

 Laughter filling their faces, spilling easily into gentle bodies
 Ghosts she did not know
 She smiled, a bit
 Mama’s hand gently touched Papa’s clean-shaven cheek
 Her wrist soft, clean
 Their numbers inked
 Embedded into flesh
 Always covered now, her body shook, on guard with prickling
 Her covering would slip in moments, exposed
 Fear and shame contorting Mama’s face, always fear now
 She longed to touch their mark 

She turned to Grandmother’s portrait
She he had her Grandmother’s eyes

 Spoken, this brought stinging to Mama
 She looked deeply, her eyes
 She pressed her nose upon the glass, cold
 Dust stirred
 The barrier between then and now
 How could they share eyes
 When she’d never seen the horrors?
 Her reflection mirrored back in the aged glass
 Her eyes overlapping Grandmother’s
 Blending and reflecting
 Her ghost

– Heather M. Browne