First there were trailers, then shelves built inside the trailers to add bodies,
quiet as firewood unless the trailer’s bottom fell out and the logs had faces.
Steel has limits and the living only so much tensile strength, and bonfires
though traditional for plagues and celebrations would set New York alight
reducing compassion to ash clouds floating over the Hudson in a visitation
of all three Christmas spirits in chorus, hauling Ebenezer Scrooge with them,
toward where people toppled like trees, a twilight-dark forest. Not one left—
the woods fallen, left to gather moss and ferns while daylight slashes mute
to the sight it unfolds. Hospitals with cadavers stacked like wooden chairs
inside waiting rooms to wait for what or whom, as if the forest floor might
take them into its bosom. The nights approaching Christmas linger and pass
and undertakers keep busier than woodcutters trying to clear away the dead
until morticians freeze into place under Sleeping Beauty’s spell. Snow falls
and falls. Concrete chills into ice slabs. Like a scene in a film—a blizzard—
a frosty upsurge breaking along the South Brooklyn waterfront. Whitecaps
which crest, line upon line, and become steel walls—refrigerated trailers—
their square sides motionless as clocks stop, snowflakes descend onto roofs
under which bodies are stacked, logs on rollways, awaiting the spring thaw
to let the living pause. To let dead remain dead and snowflakes stop falling.
To let survivors sit on couch or chair and inhale wintry silence before walls
close and open again. Before rooms grow hollow in the ashen March dawn.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work was featured in Part 3 of The International Literary Quarterly’s anthology on California Poets. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.