Friday, April 4, 2008

Bergen-Belsen

We were fishermen
from a quiet place.
Poor, but strong --
we'd seen holds
bursting with the catch,
snow-shoe hare
snared, wrenching,
begging for a cracked neck.
We'd seen remnants of caribou,
paunched, quartered, putrid.
We'd seen Normandy,
been butchered and exploded,
smelled detritus in our nostrils,
heads leaning to the hail
raining down
like lightening zippers.
We crossed country
wearing half-khaki grime.
We saw bombed out cities
painted Kilroy.
We died and we cried.
We killed and we died.
That our journey should end
with so grisly a sight
writhing before our eyes
like cod below deck,
how can we go to sea again?
We were fishermen.

12 comments:

Hopper said...

just a little background... i'm a newfoundlander... our province was an independent state until 1949 at the close of the war when we joined canada... the main industry has always been fishing... at the outbreak of WWII many volunteered (there was no conscription in the state), in a lot of cases because it was a good paycheck at a time when our economy was in bad shape (still is today)... people actually signed up because it meant that they'd get a new pair of boots, a luxury very few newfoundlanders had known... some of the first allied soldiers that helped liberate the concentration camp at bergen-belsen were from my home and it left quite an impression on them... this poem is based on accounts i've heard of their experience...

Doc said...

Wow. That was powerful. Excellent imagry. I am not one who normally seeks out poetry but yours is worth the read... If you are familar with Billy Joel read the lyrics to "Goodnight Siagon" - I get the same feeling reading your work as that song.

Hopper said...

thanks a lot doc... i know it's not nice fluffy stuff... i'm glad you set me on the hunt... i had sort of forgotten about this piece and last night i spent some time revising and it became stronger in some ways... thanks... see ya around...

Morgan said...

That's awesome. It gave me shivers, and made me realize how easy my life is. I'm off to go feed ponies in the rain, and without complaint this morning.
Thanks, Hopper.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is still powerful. I agree with the other comment, it makes me realize how good my life is.
Marlene

Hopper said...

thank you morgan and marlene... it's good to know that a touch of sadness can help to brighten a day... and morgan... you are such a hippie... feeding ponies in the rain... i'd love to see your farm... it sounds like a real interesting place...

BBC said...

snow-shoe hare snared,

Boy, been a long time since I thought snow-shoe hares. I was a quite bashful kid, spent a lot of time in the mountains in northern Idaho hiking and camping.

In Mark Twain style as I had little, just a few things in a pillow case and a blanket and a fishing pole. I loved those days.

A few times a year I would hike back in the mountains where an old Greek had a goat farm and spend a few days with him and enjoy goat meat. He had lost his wife to a bear up there.

I don't hunt and fish anymore though, they kill so many things that I just buy my food out of stores.

I would if I needed to though. I would love to go back to those simple days. When the women were easier to get along with and not so wanting and needy and with such attitudes.

*SIGHS*

Honour said...

this is an incredibly strong piece ... describing loss on so many levels ... lives, innocence - very impressive and moving. you need to do something with this one -- get it out there in the wider world please.

human being said...

I wish they taught history through such poems. Then people could learn much better and much more from history.

This poem is like a strong blow on our indifference -- the mood the reader begins the poem with.

'We were fishermen'
The same sentence is repeated at the end . But our understanding of it is changed totally through the journey we have along with these people experiencing and witnessing lots of things...

Anonymous said...

thanks hopper to pay tribute to these men. I have heard a lot of story about the bombing of St Malo for example, the debarquement of Normandy and the ww II.
I did not know this story about your province and these men.
I am sensitive because if I m living in a free country now.
It's thanks to them and all the other who were dead away from home. It is a pity that us, arrogant French, we forget that sometime.
I am agree too with the other comments .
“vive la province de terre neuve libre “ et le quebec aussi !!
frenchtony

Cestandrea said...

Now that I read your background information, I understand the poem still better. The images it evokes are powerful, disturbing, revolting. And still there is this beauty in it. I feel concerned.
Andrea

Lynn said...

I am greatly moved by this poem.
My husbands' father, whom I never met, landed at Normandy, and survived. He also helped liberate concentration camps. This is also timely as Holocaust Rememberance Day is May 1. You might post it again then. It's worth the repeat.
My husband's grandfather was a Nova Scotia Fisherman who went down with his ship, a tall ship.
And I am Jewish.
All this to say your poem had great meaning for me in many ways and deeply moved me.