Even on most lofty thrones
one’s only sitting on one’s ass,
and though our mouths make pleasant tomes
the other end emits foul gas,
which is acceptable unless
you think those who died when forced
to breathe it in when SOS
saved no souls in the Holocaust.
Gabriele Annan reviews “Trains of Thought: Memories of a Stateless Youth, ” by Victor Brombert (Norton) in “Surviving, ” an article on books by Reuben Ainsztein and Ruth Kluger as well as Brombert, all three holocaust survivors (NYR, November 7,2001) . Brombert quotes Montaigne when he says:
I often wondered if it was because I could recognize the child in me that I find it so hard to take myself seriously. Sometimes I tease myself into believing that mine is a case of arrested development, but if seriousness means acting grave and important, then I am not ashamed to have been able to make fun of my occasional esprit de sérieux. The imp [another imp] of pretentiousness should be thwarted. I laugh every time I remember Montaigne’s wonderful observation that even on the loftiest throne one is still sitting on one’s ass. No, I resist taking myself seriously, except perhaps in my deeper allegiance and fears.
I wrote the second quatrain of this poem on 2/10/09, when compiling my Shoah poems. It had been categorized as a Shoah poem only because it was inspired by a review of a book on Holocaust survivors. I now transform the poem into a bitterly sardonic reflection on the Cyklon B that caused the death of millions of Jews.
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