Poetry

History

The empty cathedral reminds me of you—
memory flares, a match struck in blackness—

our old song, the late monks’ psalms, click
of a latch: the Middle Ages closed.

Centuries later, the church’s courtyard
caged the Germans’ prisoners of war,

gate patrolled by their youngest general,
glossy gun by his side. Now

an archive, the building implies
the past can be known

through yellowing papers—as if a heart
could break and break

and live to tell the tale.
A soft rain falls where the bodies were found.

And you, your letters are buried beneath them.
Black earth and ink. History’s compost.

This appeared in the December 2011 issue.

Alison Pick won a 2002 National Magazine Award for poetry. Her 2010 novel, Far to Go, earned the Canadian Jewish Book Award and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.