Terezin

The Elbe bore away their ashes

and scoured clean the streets,

the red earth by the fortress

soaked up their blood,

and they were gone,

murdered, starved, deported,

remembered only by

the tidy baroque buildings

groaning beneath their weight,

the grass they planted on the square,

the Hebrew inscription

on their clandestine shul,

nearly erased by the floods,

the names carefully painted

on a synagogue wall in Prague

 

What exquisite art they made

even as they perished.

An opera about a murderous emperor.

A performance of Verdi’s Requiem.

Portraits of the old and blind.

Directors shuffled their casts

as the actors disappeared.

The children’s longing was transformed

into trees and birds and butterflies.

 

We gaze in wonder

at their paintings and their poems.

We admire the needlework

on the patchwork dolls

struggling with their bags.

We imagine all these treasures

secreted in attics and worn cases,

waiting patiently for kinder hands

to put them on display

as proof of the spirit’s resilience,

as a plea for love,

as a warning that you too

may one day  become the other,

the Jude clutching the star on his coat

as the knocking at the door

grows louder.

 

(orginally published in Voices Israel Anthology, 2014)

 

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