It rained,
but even
in broad sunlight
the names and faces
the photos behind glass cases
would still have left me cold.

cold hands:
cold belly, cold guts
colder still, this biting wind.

they, too, would have felt the chill
or did it dim with time?
hours of roll-calls
hours of standing,
thin or sick or tired.
matchsticks lined upright:
ready for lighting,
expendable.

they who worked
on gnawing stomachs, dry-mouthed
filthy to bed and in between
funding their own prisons.
work or die, work and die, or just die:
labour, the only temporary reprieve
from the final solution.

here I stand in bleak midwinter,
decades later:
shivering, violently.
and they are standing, silently watching,
ghosts, pitying the tourist.
no longer shivering,
no longer freezing to death
having thawed out three-deep
in purpose built ovens.
not burnt alive, at least –
the one small mercy of callous efficiency:
quicker to cremate the already-dead.

here I stand, wanting
with growing cowardice,
to shake my head, and look away.
to close my eyes, ears, nose
against the madness of men
against the ease of habit
against the routine of the impossible.

but there is nowhere to turn
and no way to escape.
I see piles of clothes (like mine),
of shoes (like mine),
of teeth (like mine),
of human hair (like mine):
shipped in, sheared like sheep,
reduced to raw materials.
waste not, want not.

I hear the ricketing of the train;
crowded with fearful faces,
straw-filled carriages,
a one-way ticket to hell.

I smell the black smoke billowing;
from vents in crematoriums
acrid fumes, burning,
flesh, long-gone.

close your eyes, ears, nose, if you will.
but still:
it is too late.
this, the unthinkable,
abject horror of humanity;
a folly that seeps
into every thought you will ever have.

numbers, tattooed.
numbers;
representing, replacing
me,
you,
life on earth.
numbers, extinguished
in unimaginable death.

the Nazis were cold, and methodic
their victims were cold, and powerless
and I am cold, and dumb-founded.
I do not believe in God,
but cannot help wondering
Where God was: spring never came.

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