published in Volume 1, Issue 3 on May 17, 1994
I visited that place Cloudy summer day A chill breeze Or was it more? Steel grey, no black. No contrast as sharp as The draped wire Still sharp Was that ditch-- The one that grew poppies And had a little gravel-- A moat? Or-- no Muffled mumblings Of tourists That don't speak the language The language of the photographers The army, The language Of hate The language of the dead To them mixed up letters To me hate clothed in beauty Despair lilting and bouncing With gentle syllables The nightmares find me Paris. London. Home. Small towns Obscured even on the Rand McNalley Fleeting black images Chase me to church Break my pious thoughts Sketch themselves faintly Over the Moscow sky And put on a new Mask In Petersburg A pilgrimage Of duty? Of guilt? To seek absolution? Or crucifixion? A common unconscious Opens suddenly before me Like birth waters breaking A flood of life seeping away That ditch-- was it? Yes. They are there. Poppies wrap their sullen roots about the wrists and ribs. In the midst of a flood I dream of a hand exposed Reaching up to God in heaven But there's no Michelangelo To paint this on another Sistine Chapel. Only me. I don't wake crying. I never do. Only half remembered images Over tea and toast. Not so difficult a journey Up before the sun A padded motor coach No forced march No fitful sleep standing closely in a cattle car No twitch of dreams in anticipation Of confronting this evil. I wonder, should I be nervous? Will I stick out as the only aryan? Will they hate me because I have No name to find Because I won't see in a display My dead grandmother staring back? We are hushed. No one else is. They are not pilgrims. They are in Junior High. They are bored on Spring Break. They are here to see the gore. They are here not to understand But to gawk. We stop. She looks in a mirror Or is it a photo that somehow survived? He wonders if the bunk he sees Held his great uncle I am drawn to the monitor. Hidden from the faint of heart By a barrier to shield and lean on. Past the tattered Torahs And the shattered windows Texts I can translate but don't want to read I know it will be there, playing Playing ceaselessly Waiting for me. That moat that used to circle the camp. I know that place. How many people did I walk on? How many grew into the poppy I pressed so lovingly into My German-English dictionary? The barrier meets my body Cool and seductively dark I become locked to the screen I have no power to back away People carried to that moat Like so many rotted chicken legs Dangling loosely for crab bait Or it is-- yes. It grows poppies I am jostled sharply My elbow contacts the barrier The physical pain is revitalizing The decaying scent of the shoes Is almost jarred loose from my nostrils. A woman who can barely Reach the barrier Short and soft Rotted from the inside Cues up Pushes her way through Not willing to wait her turn To get a peep at the freak show At the sensationalist video Propaganda of the West "Damn kids. They're watching It over and over four times" So eager to drizzle her Leering eyes over the record Of the moat Or is it-- no! She cares nothing for our Grandmother Or great uncle Or my poppy And I am become Michelangelo.