PoetryIssue 19 | December 2013

Walls in Warsaw

by Michael Sarnowski

There are walls in Warsaw that did not fall.
In ’39, the Luftwaffe swept the rooftops
with a broom of fire and force that shook
homes to their elements, ripped armchairs
and table legs from their bodies. Since before
the Miracle at the Vistula, the cryptologists
and clairvoyants saw devastation coming,
heard its voice, were witnesses to the nightmare
that awaits the body as it gives in to sleep.
                              We must remember
that the frayed ends between loved ones
do not simply mend in wartime. Think of
those startled from sleep by the strikeshock,
ruptured water pipes, their neighborhood
reduced to smoke and smolder. Now think
of those startled as if they’re your daughters—
Agnieszka, Ania, Ewa—all that is familiar
to them ablaze. Imagine you have raised
those girls like windows to the street. Taught them
                              to speak on behalf
of the young dead. Hands gripped tight
as if their clutch prevented history’s retelling
with the names and stories of their classmates
omitted, knowing they may be next to be soon
forgotten. Remind them: after the orders came
to demolish the city, after firebombs fell like dead angels,
there were some walls that still stood upright,
like a classroom where every raised hand
carried the weight of remembrance, the stories
                              of those who can no longer speak.

About the author

Michael Sarnowski’s poetry can be found in Foundling Review, Memoir Journal, Potomac Review, and r.kv.r.y,, among others. He currently lives in Rochester, New York, where he is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok