The Student Literary Journal of Vermont State University

To avoid being shot, my uncle, having hidden a Pole in his grandfather clock, rolls into an open snowy grave, lies face down. He holds his breath while Ukrainian Insurgent Army soldiers prod his leg with their guns, then disgruntled, shrug, swing their guns over their shoulders and leave. He opens his eyes. Couldn’t they return and kick him in the groin? Feeling his body in overload, he must move. What if you do that, and that is the reason you die? A voice inside his head knocks into him like a large chess piece. Small puddles of water warm against his face; lumps of blood pound against his eardrums. He feels his back stiffen, grow wooden. But oldest wood burns first. Hell will find him, turn him into a human bonfire. He’ll have to pray for rain without making a sound, breathe hard to ease his thirst, work his tongue into each small oasis of melted snow. He’ll pray for the sun to raise him from among the dead, from the wandering grey mold of shallow graves. He flips around, lips quivering. Out of the woods. No soldiers. Someone is watching over me, he whispers, each word rolling off his mouth like a rosary bead. But above him the sky is blanched, and silver branches of the watchful tree are nowhere to be seen.

pic_U_P_UPA insurgents from Rivne region