Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Poem

I wrote the following poem to thank my parents and all of my relatives who suffered in World War II. Some like my parents survived and others didn't.

Thanksgiving Day Poem

My people were all Polish people,
the ones who survived to look
in my eyes and touch my fingers
and those who didn’t, dying instead

of fever or hunger or a bullet
in the face, dying maybe thinking
of how their deaths were balanced
by my birth or one of the other

stories the Poles tell themselves
to give themselves the strength
to crawl out of their own graves.

Not all of them had this strength
but enough did, so that I’m here
and you’re here reading this poem
about them. What kept them going?

Maybe something in the souls
of people who start with nothing
and end with nothing, and in between
live from one handful of nothing
to the next handful of nothing.

They keep going--through the terror
in the snow and the misery
in the rain--till some guy pierces
their stomachs with a bayonet

or some sickness grips them, and still
they keep going, even when there
aren’t any rungs on the ladder
even when there aren’t any ladders.


My book Lightning and Ashes contains much of my parents' story of the war years and their lives after they came to the US as Displaced Persons.