Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Why We Must"

(Based on a photograph taken at the selection camp at Auschwitz)

How terribly modern
her dress
that cashmere
coat half-open
boarding school smile
a casual scarf
around her neck
eyes averting
pin striped guard
whose back is toPoland.
It is 1944
her husband may find
himself among the rows of
men who form a line
four deep and are prodded like
cattle in Mengele's Auschwitz.
She is wearing pumps
perhaps her toes itch as
she tries to step calmly
forward defying urgency.
she is valiant in
her stiletto boots
maybe on her way home from
work when they grab her
and to think hours later
she is stripped of
everything, like the others,
and made to crawl to
her end. standing naked,
we are all alike
still there is no convincing
she is anything but vital.
Only a sea gull
can find her now where
she is just another wave in
a terrible sea
maybe she sees me staring at
her photo in a magazine sixty years later
seeing myself saved only by
the cruel hand of destiny.
What foul order in
that procession
which leads to Birkenau as if to
a bearded cemetery where
a shrinking Jew saves himself from
smiling Sturmbannfuhrers by
playing his accordion
their uniforms neatly pressed
they are amused
these monsters who gorge
themselves on irony and
the girl wrenched from
her mother'sgrip to be taken to
the chamber. How dreadful for naked feet to
witness, and recall,
those who must kneel on demand
make meals of
vomit while others point with
their canes as if gesturing at
a pack ofangry lice or
spiders crawling unctuously
down spines of
cloudless days.
What agony this sky
a lover's kiss
outside the gate
but it is not for the sister who
holds her spleen while
her brother bleeds beside her that
we ask why we must
nor for baby faced butchers
it is not so we may see the hangman's face or
the face of those we hang nor for those who deny,
we must not forget, but
those whose middle name is horror
who in the hollow assault of
shade scratch outrage on
the walls of Auschwitz.
It is for the children
who know now what they knew then
why we must never
allow this to
happen again.

By: Jayne Lyn Stahl