KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 8: August 2017
Poem: 278 words

The Voices

by Kika Dorsey
Helmut’s father was an engineer in 1944, 
constructed highways, a socialist in Vienna
who gave his family a nice apartment
and enough money to buy
artichokes and oranges at the Naschmarkt.

Helmut was four years old and always liked the cellar
where they descended when the sirens blared, 
the cellar where the children played cards. 

His father listened to the wireless, 
which was forbidden. 
One day the air pressure from nearby bombs broke it, 
and Helmut saw glass shards and wires strewn on the floor, 
and he didn’t understand what happened to the humans
that lived in it with the voices of war. 
He expected them to crawl out of the shards, 
those voices from lands where soldiers fought, 
his own home a shelter for them, 
the instrument through which they spoke to his father, 
a man who built highways 
where they wouldn’t travel until later, 
until the war pushed them to the countryside
where the women hid in a shed from Russian soldiers. 

They were not allowed in the shed. 
His baby brother cried too much. 
They would go to the woods
and build a shelter out of sticks and bramble. 

A voice can be broken into pieces. 
His baby brother had too much voice. 
Sometimes a voice can stop as quickly
as the boy’s heart they had found hanging
from a tree after he had stepped on a mine. 
Sometimes a voice lives on for many decades
after the body crawls out of the ruins, 
after the war. 
Sometimes a child finds joy despite the ruins, 
and in the summer the sun blankets the bodies, 
as it always has, 
and the chestnut trees bloom. 


—From a manuscript-in-progress of poems about post-war Austria and Germany


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