18.7.18 - 5.12.13
Before the candles,
Just a man, not even that -
a human, gender does not matter. Not
towering, frail but hopeful
rough edged humility
with an accent and a family
and an education
and a sacrifice.
All that is left
to revere are
bones, bare and dense
filling the marrow.
We unite inside these bones
and build back up the memory
so long held by flesh and hate
at last liberated from loving myth -
the passing of the push for peace.
"Born 19.6.32 - deported 24.9.42
Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
or passed over at the proper time.
As estimated, you died. Things marched,
sufficient, to that end.
Just so much Zyklon and leather, patented
terror, so many routine cries.
(I have made
an elegy for myself it
September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.
This is plenty. This is more than enough.”
I was given this poem today as part of a mock Oxford interview by my headteacher. It’s about the Holocaust and it really struck me. I think the last words sum it all up - how the memories of the atrocity are difficult to bring up and talk about even now. The poem itself is quite bare and desolate and filled with perverse, often disturbing images like the ‘fattening September’ and ‘patented terror’. One would assume it is dedicated to a ten year old child who died in the Holocaust by the subtitle.
Nowadays it’s easy to gloss over such an event as something faded, historical and awkward to discuss, but the scarcity and clarity of the writing show that no great collective memorial is necessary. ‘It is plenty’ for every reader just to take a minute out of their lives to think, respect and remember.
Hope is transient;
A vehicle for a Happiness cargo
That drags along the dusty desert floors
Between the cities of Despair & Pride.
The Merchant of Words
Leans on the Hope cart
Oiling his satin-skinned hands.
Loose ruby rings jangling.
‘What paths! What light!
Doth this star deceive?’
In truth there are stars
Amongst all the seasons of sky,
Each second of planetary revolution.
Anew, a starry path
Imagined by minds.
Grasping hands hungry for gold.
Make no mistake,
A mere merchant with his
Sly respectable economy
Will be delivered
Seeds for sowing
By each barren dusted corner,
But let the Merchant
Hope on his earthen wheel
That his direction proves
Let him sing of luck
And Gods once it will.
The cities of Despair & Pride.
Walled behind the Dry.
A river’s sojourn between.
A crossing-bridge levy.
A toll man, satin-skinned.
The Bravest Fool.
A black square that speaks to me
Or a painting of Christ that doesn’t?
I am not an unbeliever, but I express
The freedom of choosing my attraction:
Not the virgin idols that the
Cloaks would have me bow to
And kiss each night by fickle candlelight.
The paintings of Christ hold a glow
Favourable in colour sometimes often, even,
Whilst the squares hang void, draining
On white walls, the hues of individual thought,
And pouring them into a phallic vase
Feigning artistic innocence,
Heavy under the gavel.
This art is not here, but far off
In somebody else’s contented mind,
Seen through a stranger’s eye.
Roving in fields like idle sheep,
How dull they all seem blending in
With the walls they seek to spoil.
Vast infinite above! heresy and blood
Spilt in thy wronged name: God and love.
“Sparest me the cell and blackest toil,”
Quivering angst says I, in turnéd soil.
Flower of wisdom! flow fearless upriver:
Braise not under sun, wilt or shiver.
In blaze, welded foreign stems are cast
Athwart our deepest pools, at long last.
Perception’s eye! past unblinking earth,
Seeker and devourer of all foreign worth.
“Rove the skies, incite our fall from grace,”
Beyond us -cavernous secrets, elusive waste.
The pinch of many noses,
The twinkle of moist blades,
And in the warm, sleepy glow,
Summer’s veterans bathe.
Curls of soft gold,
But also bare red,
And in the gentle, kindly light,
Toward December, we are led.
His hand is offered with grace,
White and cold like bone,
But in the clearest snap of day,
Our choice is all or none.
Veterans become survivors,
Their glory, all but gone,
Gnawed, gnarled and bitten,
Their breaths are few and long.
A magpie makes her flight,
Stark against the sinking sun,
And in the last clutches of day,
Autumn’s work is done.