by Erica Orloff

witness

“Witness,” oil, mixed media on panel, by Steven DaLuz, 2011. Used with permission.

my grandmother has hate tattoos
carved into her arms
goose-stepping numbers marching
wrinkled, onion-paper flesh
human ash and cattle cars

dying now, she points to my wrist
the secret symbol of Tibet
nestled in the space of Destot
a Buddhist prayer, i whisper
om mani padme hum

the needle’s sweet buzz offered
blood-specked scab and Revelation
i wear my ink with pride
she secrets hers away
beneath long-sleeved shirts

go, i urge her, aching
her breaths come in gasps
amidst beeping sentinels
iv poles and machines
her eyes furtively seeking death

will i be reborn? she asks
clutches my wrist tighter
i nod, hoping the next life
is without the ink
of ovens and smoke

Published 23 April 2012

Erica Orloff is the author of over 20 novels for adults, young adults, and (as Erica Kirov) middle-grade readers. A native New Yorker, she currently resides in Virginia.

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