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Untitled by Leah Cole
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.
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?
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.

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