At first, we thought it was a trick.
Boys will cry fire in the night, set off alarms.
We stuck till the smell of the ragged wolf—his hot breath—
huffed us out of our homes.

To save one skin (your own), how many others would you sacrifice?
On the stair, we almost knocked down venerable granddames
so near the end of their own descent—but not of ours—
their dragging progress mocked us.

Night at our heels in the long grass,
we gather in groups, complain—and hold each other,
siblings in the fosterhood of fire
who hear in the soughing wind a popping crackle
and watch the neighbor’s flat blaze up like a birthday cake.

No, this was not your time. For you,
a reason to give them for being late tomorrow—
something to tell. For those whose place it was,
               doomed luck,
                    or the howling of sudden gods.

Silent on the stair that curls upward like a question,
Survivor, climb back,
the struck shelter’s edges
rising on either side.

Is this an occasion for congratulation?
What celebrant sits at this feast?
With the sound of the sirens still singing,
dare I ring out the old, ring in the new, exulting
Lord, not I, not I this year?

MARJORIE STAMM ROSENFELD is a former Southern Methodist University Press editor, SMU English instructor, and U.S. Navy analyst who has done poetry therapy with forensic patients and made three JewishGen KehilaLinks sites to commemorate perished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Crosswinds and Psychological Perspectives.