Two poems for Holocaust Memorial Day

For those whom we remember and those we will never know.


Spring prayer after winter

These months have been brick cold and here

Threadbare blankets hold ice, soft from our mouths’ sucking

Two were taken out this morning, stiff

As dawn frost and blue white

Their coughing clogged in the night with their breath.

I sit and shiver and wait for spring.

Our shaven heads feel the wind’s cut

The day’s toil seals our skin with sweat

Bones remain brittle within thin rags.

Snow falls in darkness, flakes against shadows

And settles soft like an embrace on spikes of wire.

The chimneys belch fire and ash by day

But we shiver as we watch the distant warming.

I pray through still lips for the end of winter

That spring will wrap me in her shawl a small moment

That grass will dare to poke through mud mashed by so many boots

I pray for a warm cup in clasped hands

For soup to soothe knotted starvation

For sleep without sobbing and jagged cries

And the shape of sentinels black across bunks

I pray that spring will melt the metal in my shivering heart

And the sounds of trains approaching and the choking stench of coiling smoke

And the fear which lurches as we stand bare and broken in lines

Will stop with the start of a new day

Evening at supper

The bushes part and eyes move.

A rabbit in each hand

Nanny gap tooth grins

Full chuckles in her belly.

‘She got two pheasants out-a back,’ says Daddy

‘An’ hotchiwitchi (*) to bake.

She alright for now.’

The pan’s steaming and smoke twists from the logs are lovers ‘twining.

Vapour vanishes in the night studded with stars

Like a blanket full of light holes but warm.

The bushes come together and eyes become metal barrels.

The smell of baking clay and sweet juices fizzing hot,

Sister at the pump washing splashing light against iron shadows,

Laughter fiddles music in the air,

Children chase then sit chewing quiet.

Nanny sucks on bread sops in gravy.

The old ways are diamonds in her fingertips

Secrets simmer in her eyes.

Smoke dies down to sleep in the starlight

Dogs settle to gnaw on bones.

Silence sits soft for a moment. Then

Gunfire spatters in the air and bodies roll red.

The men come out and kick the huddled dead

Take what they can find and leave.

(*) Hotchiwitchi= hedgehog


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