Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter Poem

My father wasn't an educated man.  He was born on a small farm in western Poland and never attended school.  He used to joke that the German concentration camp he spent 4 years in was his college and university.

He didn't know much about stuff most of us take for granted.  One of the things he didn't know much about was religion.  You couldn't talk to him about things like Moses or the Garden of Eden or the Holy Trinity, even though he was born a Catholic.

But he had a strong faith, and there were things that he believed with a certainty as sure as the turning of the earth.   This is a poem about that.

What My Father Believed 

He didn’t know about the Rock of Ages
or bringing in the sheaves or Jacob’s ladder
or gathering at the beautiful river 
that flows beneath the throne of God.
He’d never heard of the Baltimore Catechism
either, and didn’t know the purpose of life 
was to love and honor and serve God.

He‘d been to the village church as a boy 
in Poland, and knew he was Catholic
because his mother and father were buried 
in a cemetery under wooden crosses. 
His sister Catherine was buried there too. 

The day their mother died Catherine took 
to the kitchen corner where the stove sat,
and cried.  She wouldn’t eat or drink, just cried
until she died there, died of a broken heart.
She was three or four years old, he was five.

What he knew about the nature of God 
and religion came from the sermons
the priests told at mass, and this got mixed up
with his own life.  He knew living was hard, 
and that even children are meant to suffer.  
Sometimes, when he was drinking he’d ask,
“Didn’t God send his own son here to suffer?”

My father believed we are here to lift logs
that can’t be lifted, to hammer steel nails
so bent they crack when we hit them.
In the slave labor camps in Germany,
He’d seen men try the impossible and fail.

He believed life is hard, and we should
help each other.  If you see someone 
on a cross, his weight pulling him down 
and breaking his muscles, you should try 
to lift him, even if only for a minute,
even though you know lifting won’t save him.


The poem is taken from my book about my dad and my mom and their experiences in WWII, Echoes of Tattered Tongues, available from Amazon.

The illustration at the top of the page is by the artist Voytek Luka from my book Third Winter of War: Buchenwald.

1 comment:

R Morton said...


I just found your blog and look forward to reading it.

My father was born in krakow in 1935. He and his family were forcedto work on a German farm as slave labor. They spent 6 or 7 years in a DP camp after being liberated by US forces. They were fortunate enough to be sponsored by Catholic Charities and came to the US in either 1951 or 52. They settled in Latrobe Pennsylvania. My father was appx 16 when he arrived in the US.

My grandmother just celebrated her 106th bday on April 1st.

The Polish people are a strong and proud people. My dad has never complained of the things he endured which included having his arm cut off for fighting with the Nazi youth.

My aunts and uncles speak very little of that time. When my grandfather passed away they shared a liitle bit more with us. My Uncle Joe drew a map of the camp/farm they were forced to work.

I apologize for my rambling thoughts. It has beena while since I have reflected on this and it has come flooding back.

Thankyou for writing about a time in your life that must have been very difficult

Best regards
R Morton (Dad swears Morton is a real Polish name)