A Holocaust Remembrance Poem for a Light-Hearted Family Meal

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So we are having some non-Jewish friends over to share our Shabbat meal tonight, in our spirit of “Shabbat-Salon.” But it is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was looking for a poem that could honor the Day, yet not in such a graphic way that it would cast a pall over an otherwise joyful dinner. I could not find one, of course, and realized the horror of even trying. So, in that spirit, I wrote my own poem about people who should never be forgotten, no matter how inconvenient the memory:

I Could Not Find a Pleasant Poem

I could not find a poem today
(he said) to use here, in our quiet home.
I could not find a gentle verse to say
what needed to be said –
what no one can say
in a pleasant way
about the unpleasant dead.
I could not find a courteous
and gentle verse
that would not drop the pall of curse
upon a pleasant night,
that we might mourn the millions dead,
yet keep them out of sight.

(C) William Melnyk, 1/27/2017

 

Holocaust, A Poem

Holocaust
by Barbara Sonek

We played, we laughed
we were loved.
We were ripped from the arms of our
parents and thrown into the fire.
We were nothing more than children.
We had a future. We were
going to be lawyers, rabbis, wives, teachers, mothers.
We had dreams, then we had no hope.
We were taken away in the dead of night
like cattle in cars, no air to breathe smothering,
crying, starving, dying.
Separated from the world to be no more.
From the ashes, hear our plea.
This atrocity to mankind can not happen again.
Remember us, for we were the children
whose dreams and lives were stolen away.

A Poem of Abraham and Sarah at Machpelah

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The Cave of Machpelah by Vincent vanGogh

I Am a Stranger and an Alien

I am a stranger and an alien
among you, old, bereft,
with all that is left
of love: the body of my wife.
She had a wandering life
with me, with tears, with laughter;
and now, after all these years
we are tired, she and I.
But I go on, and she has come to rest
among you.
Where is a quiet place, blessed,
where I may lay her down?
For I am an alien among you;
I have no home.
But she is dead, and can no longer roam.
I am a stranger among you,
but let her settle down in peace,
that her wandering spirit find release.

Take our choicest land, they said,
for the burial of your dead.
Who are we, our treasures to withhold
from one alone, and old?
Let her rest forever beneath our sod;
nor she, nor you, an alien before God.

(C) 2015 W. William Melnyk