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Buna
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
Shema (“Listen”)
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who live secure
in your comfortable homes,
who return each evening to find
warm food and a hearty welcome ...

Consider: is this a “man”
who slogs through mud,
who has never known peace,
who fights for scraps of bread,
who lives at another man's whim,
who at his "yes" or his "no" lies dead.

Consider: is this a “woman”
shorn bald and bereft of a name
because she lacks the strength to remember,
her eyes as void and her womb as frigid
as a winter frog's?

Consider that such horrors have indeed been!

I commend these words to you.
Engrave them in your hearts
when you lounge in your beds
and again when you rise,
when you venture outside.

Rehearse them to your children,
or may your houses softly crumble
and disease render you equally as humble
so that even your offspring avert their eyes.

Primo Michele Levi (1919-1987) was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays, and poems, but is best known for If This Is a Man, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in ****-occupied Poland. It has been described as one of the best books by one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His unique work The Periodic Table was shortlisted as one of the greatest scientific books ever written, by the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Levi's autobiographical book about his liberation from Auschwitz, The Truce, became a movie with the same name in 1997. Keywords: Holocaust, poem, Italian, translation, man, mud, woman, bald, nameless, houses, homes, bread, eyes, womb, empty, void, frigid, lifeless, horror, horrors, hearts, write, etch, engrave, inscribe, children, offspring, disease, avert, reject
Olivia Henkel Jan 29
I desire growth
yet stick myself into mud
just to feel grounded
mysa Jan 15
mud
face up on the ground
rain hits my face
i have been here before
lying in the mud
slowly enveloping me
like a hug
or perhaps more like a boa constrictor
my skin pulls upward
towards the stars
towards light
while my bones want nothing more
then to be laid to rest
wrote this one back in september. don't rly remember what was goin on when i wrote this but that's how it be man i'm just vibin
Nylee Dec 2019
So what you erupt
Like lava of volcano
Just like that
Without warning
You hid well you were hurt
Is that my fault?

You offending purposely
cause you took unintentional offense
Now that you are gone
But you're still in my head
making me restless when i try to rest
You want to hear the words sorry
But do you feel the same.

Is your ego flame bigger than your loved ones?
Why did you drag me into the mud?
mama,
the dolls on your dresser stare at me.
their eyes are your eyes
and your eyes are mine,
mama,  
I wear the skeleton of the body we buried,
her weeping eyes full of soil,
mama,
where have you gone?
the swamp swallows all..
no sand nor mud
can hold you down
mama,
your stare cooks the ground
bubbling,
a foolish witch's brew..
oh mama,
what have I become?
silent
swamp and mud and bone..
Have you buried me mother,
with your regrets out back?
dear mama,
cook for me one last time..
salty ragweed soup and cat-tail tea,
oh mama,
bury me
under the sand
beside my dead cat
mama,
bury your daughter
bones thin as my sisters,
oh sister,
dear sister,
your song
breathes out,
down in the muck
whispers of blessings,
of bones,
and the earth down below
the sister we buried
and
the skeleton I wear,
yes bury me mama,
lest I steal your air
some rambles
Sage Oct 2019
What has the world come to
The people in charge are cowards
I'm also a coward
But a more open minded coward
Fix the system
We're living in the mud
Ken Pepiton Oct 2019
oh, now listen, to that blues man, singin' prayer
singin' words in ways we never
hoid woids sung thisaway, since Grandma on th Bayou,
introduced
me, to Mr. Jake,
Now mister jake, he was old country, old school

He settle a passle of flybit cows with a croon,
aimed right at the moon,
top o' his lungs, knowin'

I am the only voice I hear, my prayers
never bounce,
they soak down

may you arrive, said Mr. Jake
where you wisht you were, when we

learned of life in Louisiana from an old Siclilian
fisher man cook, who knew of
Tavasco Inlet, to Bayou Bleu,
the real
you can feel black mud from the top of
the river, carried all this way,
to squish between my toes,

so I never fo'got toejam spreader was a
occupying principle behind any
search for pearls
once fed to pigs.
Mr. Jake taught me to think these muddy
thoughts
with my toes, wigglin',
feel a nibblin'
set
hook, what do you know?
A thought while wondering if prayer is more the unwritten poetry blowing on breezes that sometimes feel like care-touch, figertip to cheek
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