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Brookline, MA, United States
I'll post rants here, and musings; articles and thoughts about articles. I'll keep it quite complex and yet astoundingly simple: whatever it is I am interested in at any given moment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Poem for יום השואה והגבורה

I haven't yet utilized the blog as a place to "publish" some of my poetry, but I guess that's about to end.

In general, my poetry output has slowed markedly in the last few years, the causes of which I can guess at (long-awaited "maturity" [wish I had better word for that] taking some of the drama and romance out of life, a move towards prose [as reflected on the blog], a stable emotional relationship) but of which I am in no way sure. I'd like to get back to it, but my inability to deal with anything but an overflowing plate makes that less than likely.

The poem below, written at Penn on יום השואה והגבורה during my Sophomore year (Spring of '02) is heavily influenced by the early (at the time) work I was doing in thinking about modernist responses to tragedy (I had already taken "Representations of the Holocaust in Literature and Film" with Al Filreis and Penny Marcus, as well as "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" with Al the year before, was in the process of meeting Michael Cunningham, John Ashbery, and Charles Fuller in my first year of the "Kelly Writers House Fellows Seminar," and I think was also approaching the end of my independent study comparing the lives of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, in particular the historical coincidence of the publications of Leaves of Grass and the first performance of "Howl" in 1855 and 1955, respectively). In addition, there is a heavily intertextual current of a variety of liturgical echoes, mostly from the אל מלא רחמים and the recently concluded פסח. I also probably won't be able to format the poem as I'd like, but I'll give it a shot.

יום השואה והגבורה
April 9, 2002

It's just my room
on the 2nd floor of a building
on top of a video-game arcade
in West Philadelphia.
I am just a boy
twenty and one-half years old.
I am a dreamer.
And on this night, I dream of you.
You, full of mercieswho tonight of all nights
should protect
six hundred hundred hundred
of my good friends.
They were baked - yes baked
and slaughtered - like sheep
and murdered and lynched
and burned - like a bad mother's
too done hamburgers
in front of a watching world.
They were dragged - like plows on the field,
threatened - like babies who won't stop crying,
and destroyed on the streets of Europe.
Tonight, of all nights of the year
a foreign government has declared
that I shall remember them.
Tonight, and on no night other.
Tonight, and not yesterday,
Tonight, and not two weeks ago,
Tonight, and not seven months from now.
Tonight - we are to remember -
so that we may live
the other nights of our years
in joy - that we may breathe
without thinking of ash
that we may smile, without thinking
of the boy and his lost apple.
Tonight though, o Lord of mercies,
let them shine like the glimmering
gleam of their horizions;
let them fulfill their dreams
and enact their most ghastly
revenges - on the millions
of willing human participants
who sat by idly.
Lord, you and you alone,
protect us so that no other night
need weigh as much on our mortal backs.
I am no Atlas, no giant
you are the being on whose wings
they fly.
Please, master of compassions,
Bind them up in bundles of life
so that even in their death
they may experience even the meager
joys of a morose twenty-something.
Hold their hands on the way
into sealed rooms of carbonic nitrogen
close their eyes
from seeing mommy and daddy
stop breathing before they do.
From Babi Yar to Lodz
from Sobibor to the internment
camps overlooking Saint Francis' Pacific
recall them tonight,
and let me imitate you.
Forgive me the obvious
that these words mean nothing
that this voice cannot rise up
to affect the deeds of the past.
Forgive me the guilt of living
and for not listening to those who tell me
that words are no way to do this.
Forgive me for only using the
most profound tools you gave me
to try and convey the weight
of your most powerful Copperfield act.
Forgive me for not living to write
of Ulysses in the camps
or to question if this is a man
once I return Home.
Forgive me for not remembering -
it is my duty to them ... and to you.

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