Monday, July 10, 2006

A Poem-in-Progress

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I was recently given a gift of an informative, coffee-table-style tome of Holocaust chronicles -- a pictorial, journalistic timeline of the Jews, as their decline began to be marked as soon as Hitler came to power.

It is a powerful book, both in its detailed information and in its photos, and one can sit for hours with it. But there is a dilemma similar to a "push me, pull me" one. One wants to read the book, one wants to lay it down because it is so graphic, one picks it up again, cautiously turning the pages in fear of what one will read or see.

But I did pick up the book, sat with it a long while, slowly turning the pages and reading bits and pieces here and there. In a sidebar, I read about "Canada/Kanada."

Kanada, the storehouse where confiscated belongings from prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau were kept and meticulously catalogued — clothing, toys, shoes, eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, gold teeth, wristwatches, jewelry, pots and pans, books, shorn hair — anything that might allow a dehumanized slave to feel human, anything that could be used by the German people, craving both luxuries and essentials. Prisoners working in Kanada were lucky; they could sell confiscated items to the S.S. for special favors or food.

The Nazis nicknamed the storehouse "Kanada" because they considered Canada to be a land of limitless bounty and wealth.

I could not shake off the thought or image of this other "Canada" and was inspired to begin a poem. This is my poem-in-progress:


There were heaps and heaps
of discarded goods,
discarded lives,
discarded souls
tossed upon each other.

Nestled in a storehouse
amidst the bloated bellies,
the hollow cheeks
of human mankind.

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