MAP 55

Theme: The Holocaust

I am disturbed by reminders -- in the many selections submitted for this week's featured theme, The Holocaust; in the electronically-circulated "Anti-Hate Crime Law" petition spawned by the murder of 21-year-old Mathew Shepherd in October; in Ciro's "Casting the first stone" posting on the slam family list serve -- that human intelligence has yet to vanquish man's inhumanity to man. To the many whose intent it is to prevail through your art, your words, your good examples, your deeds of kindness and compassion, I dedicate this issue to you.

This week's theme: The Holocaust

Thanks to all who generously offered your work.

Theme for #56: Return of the lost sonnets

Theme for #57: There's no place like home for the holidays

Introduction to this week's theme, The Holocaust.

Over 100 years ago, Heinrich Heine, a Jewish poet from Dusseldorf, wrote: "...where books are burnt/Man will soon burn human beings." In May of 1933, more than 25,000 books were burned in Berlin alone, including works by Helen Keller, whose response was, "Tyranny cannot defeat the power of ideas."

When I visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in D.C., I copied this headline from a Nov. 11, 1938 reproduction of The Dallas Morning News: "Hysterical Nazis Wreck Thousands of Jewish Shops, Burn Synagogues in Wild Orgy of Looting and Terror. Policeman Refuse to Halt Organized Riots in Germany". The nationwide pogrom became known as "Kristallnacht", the Night of Broken Glass.

Two weeks ago I attended a commemorative service of Kristallnacht at Texas Hillel. Guest speaker was Margret Hofmann, an eye witness. Ms. Hofmann wrote: "...between the burning of the books and the burning of the people, the Nazi government instigated the notorious Kristallnacht, the 'Night of Broken Glass'. It was this event which set the stage for the fulfillment of Hitler's predictions..."

Here are the featured poems

1. Frank C. Edwards III wrote "One Little,Two Little" after an incident at his place of employment. When he slammed at the Electric Lounge recently, I scored him a 10 and asked him to send it for the newsletter.

One Little, Two Little

We pull the images out like redwood splinters.

Death camps. Walking skeletons. Final solutions.

Reasonable minds wrestle with broken glass,

Barbed wire. Human ash snowflakes. Straight-armed salutes.

Into what category do you put atrocity?

What lexicon defines it, contains it,

Hides it well enough to allow sleep?

What idioms?

Mind-numbing cruelty. Human experimentation. Ethnic purity.

What trivialization?

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Holocausts.

Holocaust hate-crime. Holocaust fourth-quarter playoff game. Holocaust ice cream bar.

Make it metaphorical, comfortable,

Suitable for those under 13.

Find a way to make it uplifting. Salable. Tasteful.

Locate a hero. Salvage human dignity every 7 minutes or so.

Progress makes repeats impossible, right?

Abhor the aberration.

Adapt it for your own crime.

Deny it ever happened.

Blame the victims - use Jew as a verb.

Change the past.

Overlook an infant torn ankles-first from her mother and ripped in half.

Forget the quicklime hole, filled with water

And naked faces built like yours, boiling alive.

Try to collect empty clothes, shirts on the right, pants on the left,

Yours are scheduled later.

Ignore the parallels, efficiencies, congruent trends.

Call it Holocaust, Shoah, Ancient History.

File it away carefully. Mention it to vacant God.

Buy the video, on sale everywhere.

Copyright © 1998 by Frank C. Edwards III

2. Frank Pool, AIPF Chairman, visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in D.C. recently. One of the exhibits is a bin of shoes.

Corridor of Memory

These shoes were made to endure, but not to last

this many years. The old leather sags into a softness

of animal origin. Wasn't it Einstein who said a physicist

should be a cobbler, one who should theorize at the last

while punching with his awl? What a Jewish science

that would make, humming in the shetl, smelling bread

baking in the ovens across the street, little gingerbread

people in there, philosophizing. I have seen the pictures,

still and moving, and wound my way in slow progress

through mostly silent crowds. The energy in a mass

of old leather sucks light from the white corridor. Brown

shoes, mostly, made for concrete streets and bare floors,

constructed for endurance in ghettos, in dim poverty--

yet the open-toed summer sandals, the girls' shoes,

the elegant ones, gleam a muted white in an expanding

universe of brown. The photos keep their sepia tones,

their cosmos of black and white, and black and white,

and brown shoes, and brown shirts, and black ashes

floating in the continuum of time. I have seen many

of these images before. But I can smell the shoes,

the reek of slaughtered cattle, fashioned for the feet

that walked this earth, our moral planet, coming now

to rest in their pairs, in their mountains of silence.

In every shoe, an emptiness, a man or woman or child

cut out, absent to the very last, to their Jewish souls.

Holocaust Museum

Washington, DC

Frank Pool

3. Mike Cluff of So. Cal. read this poem at Nap Jam 2.

SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES: SUNDAY MORNING

7:13 a.m.

"I did work

for the Nazis at Buchenwald,

they made me,

there was no other way out,"

in Polish-Ukranian, this assualted

my half-awake ears....

Was I hearing right

could my grandparents' past

be alive here in Bastrop,

a half hour or so southeast of Austin

Texas?

His friend, chin now clutching the ever-so-slightly chipped

formica,

said in an accented whisper,

"It is good you are not

understood here,

some people would not accept

what we needed to do back then."

II.

He's wrong

I do, hindsight is too judgmental

narrow-limbed,

he and the other he

feel guilt

for what they had to do

or agreed to:

this under-toned speech,

existence proves it

or I hope---

this is

what I need

to believe,

engulf

bathe myself clean in

to let myself continue living

in this free

( is it really?)

world.

III.

I have a friend in Fresno,

so pathetically, pathologically, politically correct

in his So Cal days,

he said,

"If I had lived in Hilter's Germany,

I would have never accepted

his philosophy

his power,

I would have died instead."

He has always been the Zionist

I will refuse to be

and he,

my friend,

is the visual epitome

of the Aryan race.

So, I will internally disagree

will never vocalize this thought around him

he won't comprehend

the oppressed's need to live----

saving skin is important,

can you blame a breast-flat mother

for stealing milk

from a corpse's purse

or

slicing off toes

when the option is to have your own thumbs

jerked off by skittish horses

sent out in four different directions

by brown-shirted adolescents

or gas ...gypsies, Cathoilic, homosexuals

'deviants' to death?

IV.

If you don't,

they will

cyanide you home

to Yahweh.

© 1998 Mike Cluff

4. From Alan Kaufman of San Francisco, who notes "my mother was a French-Jewish survivor".

********************

My Mother Doesn't Know

Who Allen Ginsberg Is

"Ginsberg" she asks by phone "Is that your friend from Israel?"

"He's a famous poet" I explain. "I've been invited with

him and Kathy Acker to a Jewish festival in Berlin."

"Acker" says my mother, her voice cross "This is a Jewish name?"

My Mother doesn't know

who Allen Ginsberg is.

She doesn't know who Anne

Waldman is, or Charles Bukowski.

My mother doesn't know that I make

a kind of living on stages

screaming my heart out

to strangers at five hundred dollars a pop,

and that there's some debate about whether

or not what I and others like me do should be considered

poetry. My mother was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942.

She was 12 then. She's 60 now. She lives in Florida,

where every so often a German tourist gets shot.

To my mother, that is poetry.

My mother doesn't like the idea of a Berlin

Jewish festival. She cannot understand what

Jews feel festive about over there.

"And what is this 'celebration' for?" she asks coldly.

And changes the subject before I can answer.

"So, what will you do there?" she asks "Give lectures?"

"We'll read our works" I say " talk in panel discussions."

"Talk?" she says "In English, I hope!"

My mother doesn't like the sound of German.

"It's a funny thing" she says "I see the tourists

on the beach, in their bathing suits... what could be more

harmless? But when I hear them speak I

imagine them in uniforms, and become afraid."

My mother sees Germans in bathing suits

transformed into Germans in uniform,

and my mother fears that having once

narrowly missed killing her they might yet succeed

in killing me. As a child in war she saw such things

as babies tossed through the air and shot.

"Like crying angels, they looked" she says.

My mother doesn't know who Allen Ginsberg is.

She watches German tourists sun themselves

on the shore. Sometimes they don uniforms

of German language, march to her condo,

call up through the intercom and order

her downstairs with one suitcase con-

taining 6 kilos of clothing, and food

for a journey of three days.

My mother doesn't know who

Allen Ginsberg is

and I wonder if she knows who

Alan Kaufman is

She can't understand

why any Jew would ever

want to go to Germany

My mother doesn't know who Allen

Ginsberg is

she looks older than her years

but younger than the death she

still manages to escape

in retirement on the beaches

of Florida where there are not too many

round-ups for the camps, and one is safe,

generally speaking, if one stays indoors,

pretends not to be a Jew, even

to other Jews

My mother doesn't know

who Allen Ginsberg is

She has tended to regard most

'high' culture

as a kind of Disneyworld

for intelligent people --

to her, the 3 bolt locks

on her door are more important

than the collected works of Shakespeare

She knows that she's supposed

to appreciate books and pretends

to but my mother doesn't know who

Norman Mailer is, she doesn't know who

Maya Angelou is, she doesn't know who

wrote On The Road or Leaves Of Grass or The

Awful Rowing Towards God

She has seen six million of the best minds

of her generation gassed and burned

She is making baked fish

in the oven tonight, regardless of what

my father says about the smell

and, tossing a nice salad,

she goes into the livingroom, sets down

the meal on the T.V. tray, and as she eats,

stares through the big plate glass

window filled with night, measuring the

distance between herself and the sprawling,

creeping lights out there, humming the

Kaddish in her throat, the prayer for the dead,

for so many, many illusions dressed as life.

© Alan Kaufman

Ed.'s Note: Space shortage prevents me running other works for this week's theme. Well, I laugh at space shortage. I'm devoting issue #58 to The Holocaust sequel. (No more submissions on this theme, please.)