Guilt in 2005
by Andrea L. Alterman

I am here because of someone's mistake. I don't know how they didn't kill us all. We were milkweed floating away, they couldn't stop us so we settled down, we took root and grew, wrapped ourselves in other people's lives until we knew these new lives would last beyond an hour, past a day, longer than the night they used to murder us. Under a sickle moon they came, carrying their orders, rounding us up into one large plaza. No circus this, no place anyone wanted to meet, no one volunteered unless they knew ahead of time and in the plaza there was no time, none, only now, just a second going on forever while we waited and cried, comforted ourselves in the circle of time as it drew closer, choking us in its haste to move on, move by our shrunken lives, our worthless days spent scraping bare ground searching for one small scrap of rotten carrot or mildewed potato, not enough to keep hunger gone for more than a minute, and still we tried. The ground groaned with us, with me inside and I heard the cries of children dying, the final breaths of men as they stood against the wall trying to think their way past this present, as they sent themselves out in search of places to be, lives that ended but this had to be, and I am guilty, so guilty of being alive, for tasting snowflakes in January. I light candles for their final breaths, recite a Kaddish over small stones I gather to remember: they were like those stones. I am so sorry they didn't live, so sorry that I cannot take a spark and send it up to bind their straying thoughts into mine so they could see one life did continue, one life managed to capture a moment and hold it gently between now and tomorrow.

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