The Annals of Evidence

Ellen Hinsey


If there were orders, we were never informed, rather—
                         We'll learn of their swift fulfillment only when—

After the low raids of night—a light remains along
                         The distance's far expanse: if there were orders


We'll know of them simply by veiled, stray words—
                         Conveying the unstatable in language that cannot

Be grasped, nor fully denied: "This morning, bodies
                         Amassing at borders," there, stunned by hunger,

Will be those abandoned to destiny's arbitrary will—


In those blank, unwritten hours, we will awake, listen—
                         Reticent to signs, but anticipating the final count—

Though the facts will shift—drift to conceal
                         Purpose, bend to match the ever-expanding

Range of excuse and permissibility, while we
                         Must decipher the remains of iron aftermath,


Experience the unhinged absence of order—
                         The city square undone / the houses scourged

By fire / the staircase spiraling to the height
                         Of no heaven—these traces of intentionality

Meant to obscure. Yet we are tied to their dross—
                         Must unravel files, reconstitute the evidence:


The campaign began at dawn/ strategic targets/
                         /The bombings were based on reliably gathered/

Train lines/ enemy equipment/ were carrying/
                         /The hospitals near the city center / unfortunate/

We denounce any civilian casualties / will be swift/
                         /The operation /The troops bore no identification—


All prisoners' rights— / pausing, you place
                         A tight document on the desk, survey charts,

Scan blurry photographs, diagrams, graphs:
                         Watch as rain beats against opaque windows,

Observe transcripts growing, a living cell—
                         If there were orders, we were never informed—

Yet the task remains: someone must order the evidence.


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