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  • Kate O'Connor

“Diseases such as tuberculosis could spread quickly in crowded dormitories.”

Skinny but strong,

the older boys know

who has been destined for death.


Younger boys cough up

hot and tired blood.


Luminous and gruesome,

their blood sticks to once white sheets

and pools in delicate red puddles

at the bottom of bathroom sinks.


The boys lie face up,

barefoot, and arms crossed,

like an open casket at a funeral.


Blood dribbles out in coughs,

and oozes out in beatings of young and unaware bodies.

Blood trickles out of mouths filled

with harsh and unfamiliar words.

Blood is snatched in the dark

by quick and knowing hands.


Some stop bleeding.


Thin and trusting bodies are buried

under hard dirt.

No marker,

these boys are hidden

under concrete slabs,

red brick and shining crosses.

Names and eyes,

blurred and obscured by years of forced forgetting.


Did these boys die? Did some of them? What were their names?


Thunderous sorrow shrieks and sobs,

demanding to be seen and consoled.

Throbbing grief sits behind worn out eyes.


How can we hold this violence and shame?


We breathe these boys’ pain in and out and wade through it with heavy boots.

We try to examine it like a map but cannot find its rivers or mountains.


How do we hold each other in embrace?



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