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TENDING THE GARDEN / Eric Pankey A prisoner-of-war graveyard outside the disciplinary camp of Brodno in Volynia after Pierre Gasear The clod of earth in his shovel was a familiar weight he had lifted and set aside all day. His hands, by noon, were a dull orange of rust. If in the wood's damp shadow white smoke lifted through the branches, he did not see it, nor did he hear the whistle yet, releasing steam— its sound trailing behind the train, the train moving toward him and the other prisoners —some digging graves, some planting flowers. AU he knew of death was its weight as he lowered them by worn ropes to the moist soil dark with leafmold. He knew that each day there would be new dead. It did not matter. It was a matter of waiting: typhus, pneumonia, a frail body limp in a barbed fence. He leaned on his shovel and listened to the train's slow jolting as it emerged from the trees. He knew he could dig all day and it would be useless— only a hole, not a tunnel.. At a certain depth he would climb out and begin again. There was no other end. It was best to have a few dug in advance. Canvas could be stretched over to keep the rain out and boards placed against the walls to keep the sides from tumbling in. As the sun came out from the thick clouds a raw gleam of light fell on the boxcars, then alternate slants of shadow. He knew what freight the train carried— white faces framed in narrow slats. 42 ¦ The Missouri Review 2. I was luckier than most, luckier because I don't remember the pain if there was pain, only the oddity of tending a graveyard and flowerbeds; how we convinced the Germans to give us the materials to build a white fence, a small luxury for our unnamed dead and for ourselves. It was our livelihood to find enough work to last the whole day before we would have to go back to camp, back to the dirty barracks where we slept. The other prisoners were envious of our duty. It was, at times, hard work but the work, it seems, promoted our health. I was determined to stay well, to last through the coming winter and not end up face up in a grave my own hands had dug. Ernst, the eldest guard, chose to befriend me and offered me cigarettes and hot tea. He spoke French as poor as my German. He said he was Catholic and we shared that at least. And though I was not Catholic, his believing it was a thing to share. He did not understand the war, but joined because there was little work and his wife had left him earlier that year. He thought she had joined a circus. One had passed through town the same week she decided to leave. It was a story he liked to believe. I thought I loved a woman then. A girl. I met her only once. She walked the road below the graveyard before noon, two pails of water in her hands, a white armlet on her sleeve. Sarah? Her name was Sarah. She must be dead by now. She might have died shortly after the last day I saw her. They were collecting Jews near Brodno then. On her armlet was the Star of David. I might have kissed her that day by the road Eric Pankey THE MISSOURI REVIEW · 43 but I did not. Ernst wouldn't have cared. But now, nothing as obvious as a kiss could reinvent that girl or change anything. 3. That night he woke on the wooden bunk and his feet were cold, his neck stiff. They were given no straw to sleep on for fear of propagating lice. Above him, a Russian prisoner laughed in his sleep. At times the laughter caught in his throat and it sounded like a man choking. He tried not to look too closely at the ill. That night he dreamed winter had come and passed. The rain and thaw washed away the unpaved streets and...


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