Holocaust A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto

 

 

Kristallnacht

 

Holy Innocents | Holocaust | Judaica

Holocaust Poetry | Thorns and Barbed Wire

 

Bees build around red liver,

Ants build around black bone.

It has begun: the tearing, the trampling on silks,

It has begun: the breaking of glass, wood, copper, nickel, silver, foam

Of gypsum, iron sheets, violin strings, trumpets, leaves, balls, crystals.

Poof! Phosphorescent fire from yellow walls

Engulfs animal and human hair.

 

Bees build around the honeycomb of lungs,

Ants build around white bone.

Torn is paper, rubber, linen, leather, flax,

Fibre, fabrics, cellulose, snakeskin, wire.

The roof and the wall collapse in flame and heat seizes the foundations.

Now there is only the earth, sandy, trodden down,

With one leafless tree.

 

Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,

With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.

He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,

He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapour,

The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.

Bees build around a red trace.

Ants build around the place left by my body.

 

I am afraid, so afraid of the guardian mole.

He has swollen eyelids, like a Patriarch

Who has sat much in the light of candles

Reading the great book of the species.

 

What will I tell him, I, a Jew of the New Testament,

Waiting two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus?

My broken body will deliver me to his sight

And he will count me among the helpers of death:

The uncircumcised.

 

Warsaw, 1943*

Czeslaw Milosz

_________

* After the Jewish uprising, the Warsaw Ghetto was destroyed on 15th May, 1943. The German officer commanding, Brigadier Stroop, proudly informed Berlin, ‘The Warsaw Ghetto is no more.’

 

Holocaust Poetry: Compiled and Introduced by Hilda Schiff