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NaPoWriMo — 3 Just Poets’ Picks — April 27

3 poems by William Heyen, from Karla Merrifield, Ann Putnam and yours truly.

Karla Merrifield pick: William Heyen’s “Riddle,”.  This chilling poem is a reminder not just of the Holocaust and who was responsible — all of us — but also of our modern times. If we sit back and let the 1% continue their tryanny, we too are responsible for it.

Riddle    by William Heyen

From Belsen a crate of gold teeth,

from Dachau a mountain of shoes,

from Auschwitz a skin lampshade.

Who killed the Jews?

Not I, cries the typist,

not I, cries the engineer,

not I, cries Adolf Eichmann,

not I, cries Albert Speer.

My friend Fritz Nova lost his father –

a petty official had to choose.

My friend Lou Abrahms lost his brother.

Who killed the Jews?

David Nova swallowed gas,

Hyman Abrahms was beaten and starved.

Some men signed their papers,

and some stood guard,

and some herded them in,

and some dropped the pellets,

and some spread the ashes,

and some hosed the walls,

and some planted the wheat,

and some poured the steel,

and some cleared the rails,

and some raised the cattle.

Some smelled the smoke,

some just heard the news.

Were they Germans? Were they Nazis?

Were they human? Who killed the Jews?

The stars will remember the gold,

the sun will remember the shoes,

the moon will remember the skin.

But who killed the Jews?

**

Ann Putnam pick: The Bear by William Heyen.

“This powerhouse of a poem is a drumbeat of horror, with the  very harsh rhythm juxtaposed against the fragility of the child and stuffed animal. The repetition seems to pound it into our  heads.”

The Bear

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her,

bear to counsel, comfort & protect her.

Arrived with a thousand other children

given toys to keep them quiet.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her.

In the gas, her bear clawed free of her.

In the gas, her bear clawed free of her.

She held her bear as tightly as she could,

but in the gas, her bear clawed free of her.

The mind and heart of her bear are wool.

The mind and heart of her bear are wool.

Its eyes black & shiny as tiny mirrors,

her bear stuffed with wool.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her,

its eyes black and shiny as tiny mirrors,

its heart wool, its mind wool.

Was alone, was carrying her bear with her.

by William Heyen, from Shoah Train.

**

and my pick (thanks to Elaine Olssen sharing an anthology of poems of aging:  Lasting).  Heyen pins a moment some might call “sublime”, exposing the nature of fear, and our subjective attitudes without “telling”.  The title and last line hold us, like a reassuring embrace.

Fana al-Fana by William Heyen

Islamic mystics’ fana al-fana

the passing away of the passing away

as when, last night, my wife of 40 years

held me & told me she loved me:

at first I was afraid, our decades only

rootless light from dead stars

but then my soul received her words,

& the passing away passed away.

 

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One Response

  1. Wow! A trio of Heyen poems. What a powerful way to start the day. And since Bill isn’t a JP member, I’ve forwarded to him so he’s aware: He’s got fans! Thanks, Kitty, for sharing all month long, but especially today.

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