Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

If Nameless Fields Could Sing

We expected to find it 
alone, just us in that sun 
under the evergreens 
among Zbylitowska Góra’s 
enclosed grass plots marked 
with names and towns 
for Poles, left nameless 
Hebrew text for Jews.      
Instead, we walked into a forest 
of flags growing wild 
without roots. Young boys 
with Magen Davids draped 
heavy, blue stripes over white. Boys 
with yarmulkes and prayer shawls 
and heads covered and arms wrapped  
in each other. So many young boys. A few 
older ones. A rabbi. Two boys helping 
another walk. A disabled boy. And another one. And then 
that singing. Singing
                                        rose like smoke. 
                                                                              Dai dai dai
dai dai dai
                                            dai dai dai dai. 
And one of those boys 
                                            wailed.                              Wailed as the rest sang.    
Rocked and wailed. And they surrounded 
the site 
where children 
are said 
                                            to have been shot. 
Nameless and gone. The grass. Wild flowers and bright
butterflies. Neon green and white amid purple blooms.
                                                                    And the flags.
The singing. The wailing. The rocking. The air 
heavy with prayer. And a smaller group of girls. 
Shoulder to shoulder, dressed in flags too and some 
carrying stones and some one another and most 
crying and some just standing. 
But that boy’s wail cut 
through huddled bodies. 
The boy carried by other boys. 
The boy who didn’t need 
the facts. Who needed 
to wail. But we are not
crying or tearing off our clothes 
or lighting candles but I wish
we were. Wish I could have joined them. 
Sang and swayed and 
wailed. Wish that
was what we had come to do. To linger 
with the unnamed on their soil. To mourn. But we 
came to learn
the facts.
                              To know that 
                                                               on the first day 6,000 were shot. 
                                                               2,000 Poles, 8,000 Jews, and at least 
                                                               800 children by the end of the second.  
That the monument reads
                                                                “Polish Citizens” 
                                                                and forgets
We came to know 
                                                                 the dates  
                                                                 and times 
                                                                 and numbers. 
To listen. But not to wail. 
To hear. But not pray. To learn 
without feeling.
To look for light 
in the break between the trees, 
where evergreens turn black 
against the high-noon sun
and wailing becomes song 
becomes prayer becomes
all that’s left of god.


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Many Names for Mother, winner the Wick Poetry Prize (Kent State University Press, 2019); Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 Idaho Poetry Prize; and 40 WEEKS, forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2022. Her recent poems appear in POETRYAmerican Poetry Review, and The Nation, among others. Julia is the editor of Construction Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philly with her two kids, two cats, one dog, and one husband.