How shall you remember me?
As I died...
A bony hand reaching for one last friend
as we are marched
to the final chambers of Buchenwald...
Or as one who once laughed
Falling to the sand
Chasing seagulls on a summer day...
And who later learned to shed a tear for such a long lost love.
And how shall I be known?
As one who perished
with worms eating at pussed rimmed sores,
caught in the spreading net of the pox plague
too weak to crawl to a fouled dying stream for water.
Or one who felt the caress of a lovers hand on my breast?
Who kissed the wind
and knew what it was to ride the wings of an eagle
and watch the miracle of life and birth.
And how do you see me?
As one who knew
what it was to nurse a baby with my nipple's milk,
to watch a son grow strong,
and learn to laugh with each stumbling step overcome,
Or is it through
the memory of incineration
at Hiroshima's hellish breath?
Do you know me for my love of poetry,
of words that defy the rhymes of reasoned thought
and yearn for the freedom of transcendent verse.
Or am I known for the nightmare of my sleep
as cold winds shoot through cracked walls
and mortars rain from mountain crests
and my children die in crumbling unfed hospital beds.
And how will I be remembered?
For this threnody of death
or for my song of life?
II. Unloved Thoughts
Standing in an empty school yard
Shutters clacking against shattered window frames
I listen for the ghost cry of children wailing in the wind.
And look for dreams that were never dreamt.
With thoughts of laughter never known,
I turn to journey home
Circles of fog wrap themselves, serpent like, around my feet
Tendrils trailing in the mist.
From the gloom a shadowy thing appears,
A man crouching by the curb.
A dark bundle of ancient rags
A stench of waste and filth.
Lifting his lonely cup,
His eyes search for mine.
Met by an angry empty hole, he looks down.
Too embarrassed to ask again,
His hand drifts down to earth.
A drizzling rain dapples the glistening street,
As I enter the light of the slanted doorway
Of the soot-stained building in which I live,
Straining up the stairs one more time,
Fumbling for keys to unlock the gateway of my heart.
I shed my dampened coat and scarf
To huddle by the rust stained radiator.
It's hissing steam
Melting cold from aging joints and bones.
My lover comes to sit by my side,
A silent hand touches mine.
For a moment my eyes are met...
We look away
As unloved thoughts pass
And we do not speak.
I look through a mist stained window,
Night lights flickering in and out
As a question touches the rim of thought:
Where does forgettery begin,
And this holocaust end?
III. Black Snow
It was a spring day, as I remember
Yes, it comes back to me now.
I was sipping my coffee and reading the newspaper.
Suddenly, a strong rapping at my door.
I went to see who it could be, so early on this morning...
Yes, it was the Spring,
For the daffodils had just begun to bloom.
I opened the door...
It was a face I knew
From many years past... A friend from school...
He smiled, for yes, he remembered me.
He looked good in his uniform, crisp and strong...
Have you seen the Jew, the Gypsy or the Communist?
His eyes were much like mine, his heart was pure.
No, I know none of these.
With a nod of the head, a nod of the heart, the door was closed.
I sit at home and sip my morning coffee.
A friend like that... So many years ago.
How did it come to be... We were not much different.. then..
Yet he went his way...
It was a few months later as I recall
That the black billowing smoke began.
From beyond the hill, just beyond the old cemetery lot
The smoke that rained down like a midnight blizzard
Covering every street and house and car
With a feathery black and silken snow.
I met my friend a bit later then.
At the market. I needed some flour for my bread.
He a bar of soap.
He was now a Commandant, of that place just beyond the hill.
We chatted for a while
And he told me that all indeed was going well.
You see, there was a war, but I could not fight.
My health was bad. It was understood.
Though the chimneys billowed still, night from night.
Each morning another dark layer of snowy black.
Covered every window ledge, every yellow daffodil.
The years came and went
And I met my friend merely one more time,
It was at the theater, if I recall.
Yes, there still was theater, we still went.
It was winter, cold and gaunt
And the snow was deep --
A dark meter now, more or less,
Of black ashened ice and soot.
The show that night -- I really don't remember.
But my friend...
We met outside, just beneath the dimmed marquis.
A fine falling greyish silt blurring all that we could see.
He took my hand -- no smile then.
I looked around at the blackened cityscape,
Perhaps there was a question I could have asked,
To wonder why and where the white winters went.
But all he did was to thank me for my support.
And then disappeared
Behind a curtain of frozen smoke.
And then the war was done.
I never saw that friend again.
He went his way...
The coffee spills,
the brown circle dampens and begins to spread,
The story ruined, I turn the page...
To see just beyond the widow pane
A single daffodil leaning towards the wind,
Its heart opened unto the sun.
IV. Ice Angels
Upon my walk through the cold and windy mountain pass,
Well worn by generations whom had already tread this high and lonely spot,
I chanced upon an angel who wept with tears of ice.
Each tear shattered on the stony ground into a hundred shards of glass.
I picked up a piece and saw within
the face of a young woman with sad and soulful eyes.
I turned the fragment and another of its facets caught the sun.
Within that light I saw this same girl, body torn and bled,
soldiers grinning in delight.
Another icy tear caught my eye and within its glassy mirrored sight
I saw a child's smooth and eerie face.
Yet deep within another cleft of light --
children piled in a pit, limbs pointing stiff up to the sky.
I picked up one more shard
and saw a face that seemed I once had known.
With trembling hands I put it down,
And then asked this angel simply: "Why?"
It shook its head and answered in a soft voice
That rippled to Infinity,
"I do not know."
I went my way to find another time and place
And as I looked back I saw my Angel
Standing in Eternity shedding its cold and frozen tears.
V. The Skies of Thunder Moon
The Skies of Thunder Moon arched above the evening stars,
As the blood-streaked sun
Sailed past violent clouds
To slip beneath the edge of Land.
The place where I once roamed,
Free to taste the air,
To run with the coyote cry,
To learn the secret sorrows of those stars
which whispered in the Wind
the meanings of the Earth.
There had been one more thing I yearned to ask,
But before the secret could be said,
The fire came that swept me from my home,
Leaving me but a fading thought for those who came to conquer.
As the clouds ascended,
The thunder of the moon was hushed,
A curtain drawn across its craggy mountain crests.
And I was left for dead upon its tranquil seas of time.
For a moment there was no sound
No bird to call for the dawning day
An empty nest
A lonely heart calling out to Nothingness.
But then... over there
Just beyond the echo of the hills --
A soft almost silent song
A different voice, an altered sound
The very song that I had sung --
A lullaby to a child that once slept cradled in my arms.
Like a gentle kiss upon my brow
My song awakens me,
And I am surprised to find that I am here
A small seed growing to a symphony
Blooming upon the fertile ground of a new,
Yet decaying ancient land.
You, youthful souls,
Who have no blame,
Are destined to vanish too.
Victims, like I, of the hurricane of history,
Your story promised to another time,
To be told by those who come to conquer next.
Then you will be the song within that conqueror's dream.
Living on in myth and memory.
But I will be the dream within the dream
The seed within the seed.
For every race that is vanquished by Holocaust's hand
Curls first within itself before it disappears
Only to reappear,
Embedded deep within the weeping heart
Of the Emperor who now strides the planet's sphere.
So listen softly to hear a voice triumphant
For within the centerpoint of a simple song
Lies the lightning bolt
Of the tear...
That opens the Skies of Thunder Moon.
Copyright 2000 Stuart Diamond