The worn wood splintered against our backs,
Skin itself splintering by overuse, restless labor.
Shoulders weighed down –
Sandbag upon sandbag of shameless hostility
And forced submission to restless sleep –
For the fragile, patched cotton against our backs
Did nothing to protect us from the splinters.

Shelved between two wooden sheets,
Insubstantial cuts of cardboard
Ridden with animosity,
And hatred.
And above these boards –
Between which we were stored, like cans of food –
Laid more flesh as splintered as our own.

We laid, but we could not sleep,
For we laid in panic of the parasitic beasts
That inhabited the earth three feet from our barracks.

And most of us could not sleep with open eyes.

We laid, we but we could not sleep,
For the numbers that have become our identity
Burned our arms as though carved into our skin
With molten iron pens.
A name tag, scalding our callused flesh,
To remind us of our perpetual insignificance
As things.
As vermin.
As Jews.

The numbers never leave.
They do not shed from our splintered arms,
Nor do they abandon our beaten consciences,
Tattooed to our memory as they are to our brothers’ and sisters’,
שלנו והאחיות האחים

And we will never sufficiently scrub the war from our skin.
We will never fully remove the mites of our barracks from our hair,
And we will never rectify the grief of six million
Stolen last breaths.