Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yom Hashoah

Today is Yom Hashoah, The Jewish Remembrance Day of the Holocaust. I wanted to write a little background on the poem that's below. 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 Newfoundlanders 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 and on the collective memory of our people. This poem is based on accounts I've heard of that experience. This piece was posted a little over a month ago but I was inclined to repeat it today, and was encouraged to do so by a friend of mine, Lynn. I hope anyone who stops through here today will take a moment to think about lessons that we should learn from a terrible time in human history, and how we can all be more aware of atrocities that persist up until this present moment.

=======================================

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.


10 comments:

Debra Kay said...

Wonderful, powerful. We must never forget, we are part of it all, part of the madness and part of the solution. To deny that is to invite it in again.

human being said...

Beautiful post... and thanks for reminding us of this 'grisly a sight writhing before our eyes like cod below deck'...
i'd like to repeat Debra's thoughtful words:

we are part of it all, part of the madness and part of the solution. To deny that is to invite it in again.

Hopper, this poem was one of the first things i read when i came here... i loved it for several reasons...

think when history is told through poetry, we might be more impressed... then decide not to repeat it again... :)
also i love the way we are changed through the course of poem...
when we come to the last line... we are not the same person as we started reading it ... the first and last lines are the same but with different meanings...
a masterly job...

let's wish for a future when all the days are Yom Shalom... Yom Ahava

Lynn said...

Hopper thank you for re-posting this poem. It moves me still greatly.

And the little blue box. Oh...my mother kept hers in our entry way hall closet. We put our "Charity coins" in it. And she in turn turned it over to Hadassah I am sure to aid Israel is some way.
I grew up with that box in my home.
Thanks for that memory.

And Human Being how sweet that you know Hebrew words: Yom Shalom (Day of Peace) and Yom Ahava (Day of Love). I love you for saying this here, today! No, I just Love YOU!

And thank you Debra Kay, your words mean a lot too. To the whole world, we all need to remember this.

New boots...why men and women went to war...survival...to help others survive...the sadness of so many who did not leaves me feeling heavy and bereft today.

BBC said...

I just noticed your poll. Humans are a tuff lot, it will be very ugly in 50 years but they'll still be hanging on. Might make it to 250, with luck longer, and in less numbers and wiser.

BBC said...

I don't write much poetry, I leave that to other parts of me. And I don't always like or understand what they write, that's what I get for delegating. :-)

One of my favorite poems is 'Trees'.

sukipoet said...

This is a moving poem Hopper. So sad to think about all the terrors mankind perpetrates on his fellow man. I have never seen the box before so thank you for the picture. I am glad there are poets and artists and prophets in the world to remind us of that is important in life. Namaste, Suki

Bobbb - Citizen of Earth said...

I have few words
I think of these things often
Not just today

And I now extend this grace beyond humanity and include elephants whales dolphins and primates, indeed all living things that suffer, among the victems of our collective cruelty.

I no longer belong to any clan or tribe other than humanity

All your gods weep at our ignorance greed and cruelty

Shalom

Forever Young said...

a wonderful poem. although i'm not a practising jew, this day always touches me hugely!

chook said...

It is and will go on while man thinks he can create paradise on earth. There are sacrificial lambs to that greater plan.

Lynn Cohen said...

Hopper. I am working on an art piece re: WWII and would like permission to use your photo of your tsdaka box. If you perfer not that's fine, but if it's okay just let me know here:
lyn_fred1@comcast.net

thanks, Lynn