Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Mother's Death -- a sonnet

The Dead are Dead

Death was a wind and a flood.

It came in the night and it came in the light.

It broke the children and their parents, the mothers who smiled and the fathers who worked in the fields.

Death broke them and buried them and scattered dust over their graves and told a story about death and the road it takes to heaven.

The dead listened and wrote the stories down and kept them close to their hearts.

They knew a story is hope.


The above is part of a sequence of poems called My Mother's Death -- a sonnet.  More of the poem appears at the James Franco Review.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Story My Mother Told Me

My mother spent 3 years in the slave labor camps in Nazi Germany.  Here is a story she heard from one of the other Polish women there.

A Story My Mother Heard in the Slave Labor Camp

They took me from my children, three little ones, Jan was 3, Wlad 5, and Sasha 6.

They said the children would be useless on the farm in Germany. They were too young to do anything but cry and plead for food.

I begged the soldiers to let me take them with me. I said I could care for them and do the work both. I even dropped on my knees and wept, clung to their boots but they said no.

I asked them who would feed them, and they said that surely a neighbor would.

I couldn’t stop weeping, and they said if I didn’t stop they would shoot the children.

So I left them behind in Dębno.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Nazi Artifacts and Memorabilia

I was reading a fine essay by Matthew Vollmer about visiting the home of a man who collected Nazi artifacts and memorabilia, and it got me to remembering.

I had nazi relics/artifacts when I was a kid.
I was born in 1948 in a refugee camp in Germany, and I grew up in the 50s, in a neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and Polish refugees. I knew Polish cavalry officers, hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos, men who had lost their hands in the Warsaw uprising, Polish women who had walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Soviets.
My friends were the children of these people, and all of us had artifacts from the war--knives, arm bands, watches, gas masks, helmets, etc. We traded them, brought them home, played with them, never considering that our parents had been beaten and raped by the men who wore these things.
I remember one time, when I was probably 10, coming home with a dark blue Nazi helmet on my head. My father opened the door and started to weep.