Holocaust Memorial Day. Artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher. Words by me.
A sequence inspired by “If This Is A Man”
1. Campo di Fossoli, 21.2.44
“…e perfino i maestri e i professori della piccola scuola tennero lezione a sera, come ogni giorno. Ma ai bambini quella sera non fu assegnato compito.”
No homework that night. And did the teachers,
Stubbornly cramming their heads full of Dante,
Also pack blackboards, chalk, or even canes?
Quo vadis. Towards what education
And what philosophy lead these wagons –
We ask, and in a sense receive an answer,
Though at this unenlightened point the name
Bears not one fraction of its later fame.
At an idle guess it could almost be
Some Alpine ski-town, where the ice-breathed lips
Of relieved officials and their sturdy dames
Stain the air with laughter. Or do we dream?
Agape at the Brenner Pass in silent awe
One tends to hear the snapping of the chalk.
2. ‘Here is no…
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In the Zyklon hills a guard yawned
Blowing halos in lukewarm sleet it was a long day
To mine a mouth of gold and Yiddish begs takes some doing
I have so many questions like why are they burning violins to warm their hands?
Hitler was a poor painter and his masterpiece ran all over the world erasing you,
So many questions like why did the ovens glow like new-born’s?
Why are you burying stars in a mass grave of strange crops?
Those portraits of war should be framed with starlight.
In grey zyklon fog you posted a death that arrived in twenty minutes,
they never died in queues and the mothers clutched at instinct,
babies cradled tight to chests in a shroud of maternity
I think that got to me the most as I flowered.
And so it is, the squelch of Russian boots in mud and ash did…
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