Of Auschwitz (7 poems)
Clogs, boots and shoes built to the skies
They stun the mind and glut the eyes
All plundered due to human guile
In every shape and cut and style
That speak of old atrocities
Where were the good, the kind, the wise
Who should have counted human sighs?
The empty clogs on this grim pile
Those crimes unmask.
Why did their God not heed their cries
That from such torment did arise?
Selection. To an ending vile
Their frightened feet walked the long mile
Why did no soldier sympathise?
Just shoes to ask!
2. The Boys Who Wouldn't Grow Up
Welcome to Auschwitz.
As a holiday camp for children it is unparalleled
The strict timetable is character-building
Food fads are not catered for
There are daily challenges, stretching them to the limit
We have a camp orchestra, showers,
An endless supply of constantly changing playmates
Here, children learn to share and enjoy adventures
Quite beyond what you could contemplate.
We do not encourage laziness,
We aim to instill the work ethos
Whenever they cross the gates
The games on offer are endless:
They go on scavenger hunts
Play sardines in the dorms
Winky winky murderer
Raises screams of anticipation
Hide and seek is discouraged
Solitaire isn't an option
Freeze frame's only played at sudden roll calls
Sharks and Minnows is our most-played game
At nights our little campers dream of food
As circus horses dream of an open prairie
They are the Lost Boys
Stranded in a nightmare, the gas-tide rising
No boat comes to sail them safely home
They'll take no shadow with them
On to Neverland
3. Paradise Revisited: Auschwitz, Mrs Hoess's House
Imagine a cottage in the country
Imagine a garden, a swimming pool
Think of the sun in the flowers,
Imagine your children playing,
Carefree and sturdy-limbed
An idyll of languorous pleasure.
Are the seams in your stockings straight?
The cook in her apron smelling of peeled potatoes
Your nimble tailors, sewing designer clothes,
Your furs of mink and ermine
Ready for winter, hiding in the cupboard
The cooling showers of summer
Sprinkle your roses
As you sit in your chair and read
The only blot in your landscape
The tall chimneys, belching their endless smoke
Over the fence, a thousand miles away.
4. Holocaust, Auschwitz
Mothers and fathers, children, babies too
Gone in a blink into the empty sky
Their simple crime was being born a Jew.
Hard to believe whole countries never knew.
Too terrified, perhaps, to even try
Imagine what a Fascist world might do.
Wives, youngsters, husbands, all with a tattoo
Unless it was decreed that they should die -
Shuffling towards the showers in a queue.
All their tomorrows up some Nazi flue.
And still men jib at facts, and would deny
That millions walked into the shower's adieu.
Those cattle trucks from Europe thundered through
Whole towns where no-one heard each ghetto's cry
The moral compass shattered, all askew.
Go visit Auschwitz.
Learn that this is true,
Feel the despair of those who here passed by
Vast evil out of racial hatred grew,
Live for today, but give the dead their due.
5. Hair- Harvest, Auschwitz.
Copper and chestnut, raven, long and flowing
Tresses of virgins, children, all unwed
Passing the weeping-willow, windswept, blowing,
Auburne or ash-blonde, salt and pepper, red,
Braided or tousled, under the barbed-wire bough,
Tangled or matted from a prisoner's bed
Long Jewish side-locks, orthodox, hung low,
Walk to their Nazis hosts, quite safe until
Flick of the thumb will state, you stay- you go
The babes in arms, whose fledgling hair will fill
Some SS general's amply-padded chair
Top-knots and hairpins, down like snowflakes spill:
There's no escape, for Evil's everywhere;
Thousands of ashes tumble through the air
6. A Visit to Planet Auschwitz
The people-carrier's a Polish taxi
It's air-conditioned, waterproof and roomy
The TV screen drops down. The film is grainy
The others in the taxi soon grow weary
It's just a video-clip like any other
It could be from a B-list horror-movie.
We park, we disembark, we stretch our legs
A comfort break. The sanitary arrangements
Are gleaming, automated, clean's a whistle
Rinsed and refreshed, we step into the sun
A glorious day. The smell of Polish coffee
Wafts from the café, where with plates piled high
Diners chose their tables, check their watches
The atmosphere is verging on the gay
The poplars lining gravel paths are green.
Their leaves like tiny flags on shining boughs
Under the German words, 'Arbeit Macht Frei, '
We're strapped into the seats for health and safety
Our comfort is of paramount importance
Squads of school-parties march behind their leaders
The double rows of barbed wire fence are harmless,
Beside a skull and crossbones on a stick
The Polish guide speaks English with an accent
Exhibits tell their tale in grisly silence
A child's red shoe, glows in a glass display case
Single roses, draped or stuck in crannies
A single, plump blonde braid, amongst the cloud
Of poisoned, dark-grey, matted, Jewish hair
The spectacles are like a spider's web
Constructed on a futuristic planet
Of robots, where life's all mechanization
A nesting place, an altar to myopia
Prosthetic limbs, like snapped off metal cogs
Frozen in time, are going nowhere ever
A baby's pinafore all stitched in flowers,
Laid out, an accusation and a grief
Cases are here, their baggage-weight allowance
Less than Vienna Airways for each traveller
With no return ticket. Contents plundered
Bearing the name and country of their owner
Where 20,000 faced the firing squad,
Young, smiling tourists photograph each other
Do women watch them through the weathered planks
Where Mengele prepared them for the knife?
The buildings here are red, two-story brick.
For this is Auschwitz I, where most could work
Or perish from disease, starvation, hanging
The gallows, like a dismal washing line
Beyond, is Birkenau, the sister camp
End of the line where railroad convoys stopped.
Entire communities off-loaded here,
The human loaves that fed the Auschwitz bakeries
The trees around are rustling green with echoes
A solitary bird flies in the sky
We're taken to a pleasant little mound,
Led underground into the killing chamber
It's dimly lit. We're all crammed in together
Like rush-hour on the tube, jostling for space
But they were naked, dignity stripped bare
The lights went out, and then, the gas, the gas.
One million cobblestones, strange monument
Our shoes are white with dust that won't shake off
The people-carrier's waiting at the gates.
Back in my room, I shower in cleansing water
7. The Roma
The Roma moved from India,
I don't remember when.
We pitch our camp, we set our fire
In wood or moor or fen.
In England, once, they hung us,
And in France, laid on the brand
Bohemians cut off our ears,
We tramped from land to land
The Hapsburg empire flogged us,
The Spanish made us slaves
In countries over Europe
We were hounded to our graves
The Czech folk sterilized us,
The Germans fenced us in
At Auschwitz-Birkenau we knew
The ultimate in sin
They studied us, they tortured us,
They put us in the fire
But we're the Roma, we rise up,
Our race will not expire
Our maidens they are virgins
Till they pay the bridal price
Our caravans are spotless
And we keep our clothing nice
Our Romany musicians
Entranced Franz Liszt and Brahms
In the East we read the Koran
And in Scotland sing the psalms
You'll hear us in bolero,
In flamenco, gypsy jazz
We dance, we work, we fortune-tell.
We're known for our bizazze
We chose a place that suits us,
Washing flapping in the breeze
Making brushes, taming horses
Underneath the leafy trees
We go where fancy takes us,
With a whistle and a song
The Roma's like the wandering wind,
That never settles long.
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Comments about this poem (Of Auschwitz (7 poems) by sheena blackhall )
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941)
(13 January 1957)
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi
(1207 - 1273)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Naomi Shihab Nye
(12 March 1952)
(August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971)
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