Small Black Suitcase

Small Black Suitcase

( Lines for Holocaust Memorial Day, Monday, 27th, January, 2020 )

Your mother gave you a small black suitcase,
told you to never let it leave your hand,
and to be good like the other children
on the long journey to another land.

It was loud and big in Berlin station,
you were bundled on the crowded train.
You managed to stand stiff by a window,
too hollow and cold to feel any pain.

Thought you were on some kind of holiday,
maybe to the seashore or to the zoo.
Later, you found out why you had to go.
It was because your father was a Jew.

You felt as lost as the other children,
but you liked the Quaker school in England.
Your teachers allowed you to play outside.
Later, what happened, you would understand.

Now you look at your mother’s photograph.
Gone with your father, they did not survive
the holocaust in the camp in Poland,
liberated in 1945.

You feel your hand grip the small black suitcase,
hear the hard roll of the wheels of the train,
search among shadows in Berlin station
for faces you will never see again.

In German it was called kindertransport
that which saved you from the worst of the war,
let you sleep undisturbed in your shelter,
without shouts of soldiers at your door.

The watchtowers and electric fences,
the mass graves dug at the end of it all,
you know now what your parents saved you from,
how far down your fellow humans can fall.

One of the last holocaust survivors,
you speak in the name of those who were killed.
You say it is your duty to do so,
until your voice has no strength and is stilled.

 

A Fork In The Flow

A Fork In The Flow

A stir in the air, a quiver,
a fork in the flow of the river,
agitates the common state,
examines the end of equilibrium,
tests the laws of tedium,
concludes with the verdict,
life remains active even when still,
but little bends to the will.
Meanwhile, January does its worst to be January.
Outside is solidly cold,
often damp, grey, rainy, windy,
the ground unpleasantly soggy.
A pike butts its head on the ice.
An old man holds a tomato soup can,
does not care to compare its corner shop cost
with its supermarket price,
thinks himself lucky to have only a cold
and not the flu,
but feels enmeshed in a puzzle
without even a cryptic clue.
Reading the newspaper, he muses,
the wrongdoer may be caught and punished,
but the victim has no victory,
for a crime cannot be cleansed from memory.
Wake in the morning, discard your dream.
Like the pike pine for spring.
The thaw will grant the wish of every fish,
to fin further upstream.

An Early To Late Debate

An Early To Late Debate

The Owl and the Nightingale
Anonymous wrote
in the Middle Ages.
The two birds debated
for pages and pages.
Listen, if you will,
for they argue still.

Said the owl to the nightingale,
“You might inspire poets
but you do not inspire me.
Only fools as they
think you sing enchantingly.”

Said the nightingale to the owl,
from its high perch in a tree,
“Absurd to think any bird
would rather be you than me.
Who would want to be a night fowl
who hunts for mice in the dark?
A fellow day bird I would rather be,
like a swallow or a lark.
Mortals I enchant with my song.
My tunes reach the root
while you can only hoot.
With the bat and black cat you belong
in Medieval witchery.
Admit you are not worthy to debate with me.”

Said the owl to the nightingale,
“Philosophers think me wise,
for my eyes are big and yellow.
I look well read in books,
a learned feathered fellow.
While you are but a singer
who strains to hold a note.
If any search for wisdom,
it will be I they quote.”

The owl and the nightingale
are best left in debate.
They began to argue early
to who knows how long or late?

 

On The Reading Of Fine Literature

On The Reading Of Fine Literature

The Owl and the Nightingale
continue to debate
in Medieval English
for scholars to translate.
The Canterbury pilgrims
travel through the pages
in tales writ down by Chaucer
in the Middle Ages.
Beowulf both blunt and bold
told in Anglo-Saxon,
the old king with sword and shield
had to face the dragon.
The Iliad by Homer
lies dormant in the dust
till readers read the lines
the siege of Troy to trust.
The Odyssey of Homer
takes readers out to sea.
Voyage of Odysseus
revealed what perils be.
Works of William Shakespeare
endure and ever will,
since first he mastered his craft
with parchment, ink and quill.
The Count of Monte Cristo,
like The Three Musketeers,
proves that fine literature
will last for years and years.
As Moby Dick is more than
a tome about a whale,
readers will always delight
in a well written tale.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
will much amuse in rhyme,
as long as the looking glass
shows Alice nonsense time.
Of novelists and poets,
there is a favoured few,
who wrote works of genius,
each reader reads them new.
Chronicles of wasted time,
when in them you may look,
do not count the reading of
a fine and lasting book.

Defrost the Fridge

Defrost the Fridge

Defrost the fridge.
Attend to what happens.
Consider it as if it were a demonstration,
an illustration of what you have heard on the news,
that new coinage, global warming,
the effects of climate change,
unnatural events in nature.
Turn off the switch.
Listen. First to the long solid silence.
The permanence of hard ice, icy air.
Feel the hollowness of the freezer cabinets.
Then hear the first drips of cold water drops.
Watch them slide off and fall from the silver tubes.
Hear them splat in the washing bowl
you placed on the floor of the fridge.
Finally, note the crick, crack of ice breaking.
The thaw complete, the fridge free of ice,
mop the pools of cold water from the kitchen floor
the washing bowl could not catch.
Turn the switch back on. Hear the fridge hum.
Think of Greenland, Antarctica,
the icebergs melting unnaturally, frighteningly fast,
tumbling, crashing in chunks in the ever deepening,
unforgiving ocean.
Dwell on the causes,
the smoke and fumes of industry and transport.
Hope that if put on trial,
the leaders of Earth would not be found guilty
of climate change denial.