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Speechless at Auschwitz
by Ko Un
translation by Michael R. Burch

At Auschwitz
piles of glasses
mountains of shoes
returning, we stared out different windows.

Published by Brief Poems

Original text:

Ad Auschwitz
pile di occhiali
montagne di scarpe
sulla via del ritorno
ognuno fissava fuori dal finestrino in direzione diversa.

(da Fiori di un istante, 2001)

Keywords/Tags: Ko Un, Holocaust, translation, speechless, Auschwitz, glasses, shoes, windows, silent, tongue-tied, wordless
by Michael R. Burch

Walk here among the walking specters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that God is good, and never mind the Urn.

A lentil and a bean might plump their skin
with mothers’ bounteous, soft-dimpled fat
(and call it “health”), might quickly build again
the muscles of dead menfolk. Dream, like that,

and call it courage. Cry, and be deceived,
and so endure. Or burn, made wholly pure.
One’s prayer is answered,
“god” thus unbelieved.

No holy pyre this—death’s hissing chamber.
Two thousand years ago—a starlit manger,
weird Herod’s cries for vengeance on the meek,
the children slaughtered. Fear, when angels speak,

the prophesies of man.
Do what you "can,"
not what you must, or should.
They call you “good,”

dead eyes devoid of tears; how shall they speak
except in blankness? Fear, then, how they weep.
Escape the gentle clutching stickfolk. Creep
away in shame to retch and flush away

your ***** from their ashes. Learn to pray.

Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, poem, ashes, crematorium, chimney, smoke, gas, chamber, Auschwitz, starvation, walking dead, mass graves, genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, fascism, cruelty, brutality, inhumanity, horror
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mangled feet, cursed earth,
the long interminable line in the gray morning
as Buna smokes corpses through industrious chimneys...

Another gray day like every other day awaits us.

The terrible whistle shrilly announces dawn:
"Rise, wretched multitudes, with your lifeless faces,
welcome the monotonous hell of the mud...
another day’s suffering has begun!"

Weary companion, I know you well.

I see your dead eyes, my disconsolate friend.
In your breast you bear the burden of cold, deprivation, emptiness.
Life long ago broke what remained of your courage.

Colorless one, you once were a real man;
a considerable woman once accompanied you.

But now, my invisible companion, you lack even a name.
So forsaken, you are unable to weep.
So poor in spirit, you can no longer grieve.
So tired, your flesh can no longer shiver with fear...

My once-strong man, now spent,
were we to meet again
in some other world, beneath some sunnier sun,
with what unfamiliar faces would we recognize each other?

Buna was the largest Auschwitz sub-camp, with around 40, 000 foreigners “workers” who had been enslaved by the Nazis. Primo Levi called the Jews of Buna the “slaves of slaves” because the other slaves outranked them. Despite Buna’s immense size and four years of activity, according to Levi it never produced a kilo of its intended product: synthetic rubber. Levi described Buna as “desperately and essentially opaque and gray.” He said not a blade of grass grew within the compound because its soil had been impregnated with the “poisonous juices of coal and petroleum” so that nothing was alive but machines and slaves, with the former “more alive” than the latter. Levi also related hearing a Buna Kapo say that the only way Jews could leave Auschwitz was “through the Chimney” of the crematorium. It is possible that the companion being addressed in “Buna” is Primo Levi himself, recognizing what he had been reduced to. Keywords/Tags: Primo Levi, translation, Holocaust poem, Auschwitz, Buna, mud, chimney, smoke, crematorium, corpses, bodies, death, ******, starvation, gray, colorless, invisible, nameless, slave, slaves, slave labor, horror, hell
Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon’s, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her,
                                      and is not the same.
I still love her and enlist this sacred fire
to keep her memory exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles ...
They sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the “surgeons.”
                                                    S­leeping, all.

Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                              Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man’s crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I’ll bed there and bid the world “Good Luck.”

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, Black Medina, Voices Israel, Other Voices International, Verse Weekly, Poetry Renewal Magazine, Mindful of Poetry, The Eclectic Muse, Promosaik, Famous Poets & Poems, The Wandering Hermit, FreeXpression (Australia), Inspirational Stories, Poetry Life & Times, Sonnetto Poesia (Canada), Trinacria, Pennsylvania Review, Poems About, Litera (UK), Yahoo Buzz, Got Poetry, de Volksrant Blog (Holland)

Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, Auschwitz, rose, Sharon, name, forgotten, sacred, memory, flame, briar, thorns, reddening, sunset, thistles, nettles, innocent, innocents, surgeons, blood, crimson, petals, weeds, muck, lightning, blitzkrieg, strike, struck, attack, war, violence, ******, death, bed, grave, goodbye, farewell, good luck
The human soul and mind, trapped and tortured for years.
With every roll call facing death, with every roll call facing fears.

A swimming pool of lies, filled only with deceit.

A chamber hiding no secrets, filled with screams,scratches and screeches.

Empty basements laying dormant, concealing the history of all the torment.

Foundations built upon bodies, bricks and mortar.
Their prisoners, our innocents without food, human decency, warmth and water.

For those souls taken, to have met rotten decreation.
May you be remembered and never forgotten.
I wrote this short piece after a visit to Auschwitz which affected me deeply and changed my perspective on life. This is my first attempt at anything like this as I just needed to express my feelings in a way which commemorates the lives lost there. Thank you.
Terry Collett Jun 2019
To the left to death;
to the right to work.

Anna, your blond hair
shines in the sun.

Ashes on my
dark hair
remind me of you.

Dogs barked an
unwanted greeting.

Anna, where are you?
I dream of your
blonde hair.

I was sent
to the right
to work;
you were sent
to the left
to death
a meeting
of geese
wouldn't abet
their cold
and stranded
with nonchalant
only to
harry this
land with
ware that
their untold
riches could
indeed  tangle
my heart
here wreched
winter blew
my nose
Canada is a land of riches
JDH Jun 2017
Watch down the meadows here, of half a sight of
slaughter, and stick down these rows furled lazy
with the grass of fair days and stilted with colours
of May. And see no horns, rooted like the children's
graves, all turned a pallid colour. And bathe now in
the sun of stilted memories gone to wind.

For no heads turn as sirens on the clock here, filled with
madness of spinning rocks on the hour. Nor any men
dressed as men without eyes, should we skinned heads
have to suckle death from their guns. No: now these Trees
had hanged the other way, turning from sights of sorted
mass into waking graves, and to wash in perfumes hazy
as the night sky, and rotten as anaemic lungs.

But watch down the meadows now, through fields of huts
and silence‒ for the pasture of death looks nothing like
violence. Where, upon a ravaged place, a Lark lands as
an infant would, and tenderly drifts, faint into innocent
shawls, damp with poison mud. But for what cause do
these blind bullet heads sink lower than flesh, and when
the Sun next rises, all shall be put to rest.
After visiting the Auschwitz Birkenau camp, and hearing a Polish survivor... how the days of death seemed to have faded on a summers day. It seemed a shell of the horrors that had been. Only a dark imagination could fulfil the past.
Gather at my knee, all ye
neighbourhood kids & heed these
words to the wise: use Sisyphus’ tissues
if you’re wiping weeping eyes.

Audacity of hope, Barack? More like
jolly-hockeystick-in-your-throat, I’m-alright-
Jack barefaced cheek when baby boys & girls
are the pearls we hurl before this Swine of a Life.

Why every day a little more hope dies!
Somewhere some schmuck’s last hope just died,
& they hope they might soon die.

‘Where there’s life, there’s hope’:
fool’s hope on which you’ll choke
the day you find vital signs might be ‘Thunderbirds Go!’,
but your zest is as dead as a d-d-d-d-
pterodactyl, d'oh!

Paul Celan & Primo Levi
made it out of Auschwitz alive,
but both topped themselves
decades after the Lager,
knew treacherous Hope, not Fear,
queued up for disaster.

But you gotta laugh aintcha, like a supervillain
- mwah-ha-ha-hah!
Or a supervillageidiot
- yurk yuk yuk yurk!

Why every day a little more hope dies!
Somewhere some schmoe’s last hope just died,
& they hope they might soon die.

'Where there’s life, there’s hope’,
fool’s hope on which you’ll choke
the day you find vital signs are all ‘Thunderbirds Go!’,
but your zest is as dead as a d-d-d-d-
archeopteryx, d'oh!

Hope springs eternal,
like self-harming haemophiliac's on draught cuts.
Hope stings infernal,
like Satan’s futon of massed wasps’ butts.

Doctor, doctor, dearie me doc,
my get up ‘n’ go has ****** off.
Since life is a *****,
Hope must be the ***** support machine.

Why every day a little more hope dies!
Somewhere some schlub’s last hope just died,
& they hope they might soon die.
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