Placed on a pile tenderly

as if to encourage brief sleep,

or easily torn from a tiny fist –

a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand

companions and twice the number

of unseeing eyes made of glass.

No child parent came back

to reclaim their mannequin infant,

no sudden cry, no crouching down

to draw them out from the dune.

The hut where they were taken

was cool and dark, on shelves

they placed them head to toe

layered like sardines to save space.

The laundry girl was conscripted

because she could knit and sew

new outfits for the stripped naked;

gowns, bows, sailor suits and blouses.

The master made his selection;

this one shall be a little SS man,

a festive gift for my son back home,

Christmas is for family as you know.

Carefully she buttoned them,

smoothed the new frocks down,

laid her changelings carefully

like fine wines nestled in straw,

Deutsche Bahn to Frankfurt,

Leipzig, Heidelberg, Cologne.

She gathered up the old clothes,

tiny shed skins still registering

the half-light of an owner,

the questioning gleam of sequins,

cream lace to cool a flushed face,

on a pretty blouse the bloodstain

left by a careless red crayon.