- 5. Song of Songs
Sixty years after, and it was all the same: there, the low stone wall where she sat and wept. And there, the hibiscus flowers rocking outside the kitchen door, the mimosa blushing in the fog, and even the piano, although its keys were pillowed in dust, and made sounds like coins rolling down a pipe. Sixty years of nightmares had made no difference: the one in which she buried him alive, the whole village standing around the rain-slick pit, indifferent, saying nothing, watching; the one in which he slit her mother's throat. He had played Chopin for her, and brought her handfuls of coal. You must read Seneca, he had said, when you are older. And Marcus Aurelius. His evergreen uniform, his cropped blond hair, the commanding officer who shouted, Put out your lights or I will shoot through your windows. Her dolls had been sent back to Düsseldorf, the dining room chairs burnt in the fireplace. Henri, her brother's classmate, shot in the woods, driven through the village in the back of a truck, never blinking, even as his head bounced against the metal bed. And leaflets dropping from the sky (possessing one was death; she had hundreds), pink and green tracer bullets rising into rumbling black. There had been other men, other deaths, children, a city of glass and ash, a house under an enormous maple. But still, she had sat on the floor in the room over the garage while he played Chopin, sunlight glinting in the hairs on his hands.
Stephen O’Connor has published three books: Rescue (fiction and poetry), Will My Name Be Shouted Out? (memoir) and Orphan Trains (history). He teaches in the writing MFA programs of Columbia and Sarah Lawrence.