KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Tanka Tale: 282 words

In Such Unstable Times as These...

by Kathryn J. Stevens

fading letters
in German script
from my aunt to my father
shortly before she vanished
—her words possess me

Munich Pact signed. The German Reich is permitted to annex the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. September 30, 1938.

Brno Czechoslovakia, Nov. 5, 1938
Dearest George, On Saturday Rudi and I were at Eman’s again.
Now the Jews here, when they go out, seek out Jewish pubs.

in blue dawn
they wait for the train,
gripping heavy cases...
the fringe of a scarf
trembles in the breeze

Kristallnacht: 267 synagogues destroyed, 7,500 (est.) Jewish shops looted in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. A fine of one billion Reichsmarks (US $400 million) levied on the Jews for this damage.* November 9 & 10, 1938.

I think to myself, we’ve been here so many years and everyone has coexisted so well and suddenly that changes. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

cattle cars rumble
past ripening fields...
prayers unvoiced
they huddle in the gloom
tears and stars useless

German soldiers enter Czechoslovakia. Hitler speaks from Prague Castle. March 15, 1939.

Pardon my disjointed writing. I am overly nervous and have been sleeping poorly. Who sleeps well these days anyway.

frantic hands
snatch at shadows,
imagining bread—
no longer hungry
the dead sleep soundly

The first killing center begins operations. December 8, 1941.

We are no longer welcome anywhere. I think the only place they want us is in the Central Cemetery.

in a tangle
sweet grasses grow
over nameless graves—
the lost return
the only way they can


* Author’s Note:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Introduction to the Holocaust.” Holocaust Encyclopedia.
Accessed on August 21, 2017.

Kathryn J. Stevens
Issue 9, Spring 2018

worked in marketing communications with IBM and before that with one of the divisions of The State University of New York at Albany. Her poems have been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Ribbons, Haibun Today, Contemporary Haibun Online, The Heron’s Nest, and KYSO Flash. She currently lives in Cary, North Carolina, with her husband and elderly cat.

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