For You Shall Be Called to Account

Leah Horlick

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The ancestors of everyone I’ve let into my body

are gathered in a small room with one window,

no lights. Yes, the room is crowded. Yes, there

are no chairs. Yes, they are talking. Why are we

here, says the Nazi resister. Where are the chairs,

says the Viking (no horns). Where is the light, say

the people with their new French name hung

around their necks heavy like a long black cross.

Here, says the grand wizard, and a long white

light descends from a point on the ceiling.

The people of the oldest empire are here, too,

they have brought their own fire (hidden), they

too can speak French, they know in an instant not

to trust that light. They are opening the window.

How do we get away from these people, they

murmur. True Aryans! say the Nazis with their

new French name. No one is speaking

to the Catholics. There is a knock on the door -

there is a door. More Nazis. How did this happen?

Outside the open window there is a small huddle

of shawls and feet and candlesticks, a suitcase

and a cane. Someone has forgotten their things,

says the Nazi resister. The candlesticks turn into

my great-grandmother, their tarnish to coal smears,

the cane grows tall into my great-zayde, the shawl

his mother, suitcase an uncle with an aunt inside.

The feet are just empty shoes – my cousins have

already died. The small huddle of my family outside

the open window begins to sink to a great distance,

first one storey, then a long drop. Someone spits

through the open window. My great-zayde

shields his face. Great-Grandmother looks up.

What are those people, she says, doing

in that room?

Leah Horlick, "For You Shall Be Called to Account". Copyright Leah Horlick 2021. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Moldovan Hotel (Brick Books, 2021)