This week, poetry broke my heart.
And isn’t that what it’s supposed to do sometimes?
I was reading Paul B. Janeczko’s Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto (Candlewick, 2011). These poems told in the voices of people at the Czech concentration camp during WWII offer moments of fear, hope, despair, and–most of all–humanity. Most are in first person, and here are a few excerpts (line breaks in the first excerpt are off because of the cover image).
from David Epstein/12275
I would like to feed him my Sarah’s ashes
one spoonful after another
until he could no longer breathe.
Then I would force more ashes into his nose.
Whatever he choked down or spit out
I would replace with more
of my Sarah’s ashes.
When he died I would cram
more ashes down his throat.
Dead or not
he must taste my Sarah’s ashes.
from SS Lieutenant Theodor Lang
were in our town for a short time,
only long enough to see
what we wanted them to see.
They saw enough
to know that we were treating the Jews
in a civilized and humane manner.
We waited a few months
to resume the transports.
The town was getting crowded
and the ovens of Auschwitz waited.
And here’s one in its entirety, a testament to both the joy stolen in moments here and there at Terezin and the inevitability of its end.
Nicolas was adorable
in our opera
complete with false mustache.
such a voice!–
marched around the stage
aglow with pride.
Applause washed over him
over all of us.
He was Brundibar.
His star flashed for sixteen days
until his number was called.
His mother’s too.
And his sister’s.
As Nicolas clattered toward death
we found a new Brundibar.
–Paul B. Janeczko, all rights reserved
Amazing and horrifying, right? Many kids read Number the Stars and The Devil’s Arithmetic, fantastic novels of the Holocaust. Reading Requiem will give teens a whole new way to experience and understand that horrible part of our past.
Julie Larios at The Drift Record has the Poetry Friday Roundup today!