November : Did you ride the train?
‘Did you ride the train to Auschwitz-Birkenau?’
I asked God.
‘Were you there?’
‘Did you not see’ replied God,
‘the love in the old eyes of the rabbi,
his sole luggage a basket of challah loaves,
which he broke and blessed and gave
to the children crying in a corner, whose only
companion on that train of destruction was hunger.
Did you not hear the sweet voice of the young mother
who sang ‘Oseh shalom’ to her fretful baby,
whom then she kissed and held close to her heart?
I was there.
When the living and the dead entwined were thrown
from that train into the bitter morning,
were you not moved by the compassion of strangers
supporting the woman, the child, the maimed,
all unknowing on the left hand way to death?
Did you not sense the hope in the eyes
of the young man ordered to work,
and the faith in the heart of the old man
that his God would not desert him?
I was always there.’
‘Cursed, reviled, blamed, cast out, forgotten,
I am there when old enemies touch hands,
when a smile lights up the darkness of despair,
when a cup of water and a crust is shared,
when children looking up at the rising sun,
clap their hands amongst the rubble and the dust.
At the bedside of the dying, in the cradle
of new life just born,
I am there.’
Once in this place broken victims, innocents
with eyes made vacant by hungry fear,
waited for the bitter taste of oblivion.
Dark chimneys, long cold now, spring from
fresh mown grass and flowers of yellow and red
weave a living tapestry across the meadow.
Beneath the soft grey haze of a Polish sky
the land lies quiet, at peace,
for Love unbidden is come again.
Illustration by Liz