My father told me a story long ago
In a manner made casual by time
And many layers of his own history,
When his brother, my uncle,
A young American, a young Jew, helmeted,
Armored, uniformed and weary,
Stalked through unfamiliar woods
With vernal leaves unfurling overhead, filling with life,
Encouraged by the promise of summer.
He and his platoon filtered out from the wood
And intersected with a gravel road that their
Map said would take them to the iron gate of Buchenwald.
Surprised nazi guards, fleeing the armed
Uprising of camp resistence that hours before
Had unleashed a surge of rage and desperation,
Collided with my uncle’s troop, engaging them in a last fire fight.
When no more bullets sliced through the air,
The platoon moved on towards the entrance.
They passed, splayed on the road, facing up,
A freshly killed enemy soldier.
His most prominent feature, an oval
Burnished brass belt buckle,
Stamped emphatically, confidently,
With the arcing words “Gott Mit Uns”.
We’re well aware, or should be.
Invisible porters bringing it these days
To our ears and eyes with ease,
We know it’s still going on.
Different tormentors, different victims,
A scientist posed the idea recently,
Our only hope is to keep moving,
Following a biological imperative,
Moving from Homo sapiens to Homo sentiens,
Becoming something more than we are now.
Cause, does it seem like this is working,
God is dead, some say
God is love, some say
God is with us, it said on the belt buckle of
A dead nazi soldier, under the same bright
Blue dome that stretched seamlessly over
Oceans and mountains and cities and people.
People leisurely drinking good coffee
At café tables, talking about last nights bright,
Flowing Violin Sonata in F major, the “Spring” sonata,
Why Beethoven, of course, at Carnegie Hall.
And Uncle Mel standing in worn out leather boots,
The stitches frayed and unraveling.
Standing outside only one death camp.
Standing over seedlings
Uncurling beneath the soil surface,
All around his feet,
Spearing their way upward,
Toward the sun.
Note: “Jadem Das Seine” was the phrase welded into the iron gate of Buchenwald. It remains there to this day as part of the memorial site.