Lafishman’s Blog

April 13, 2010

A poem for Yom HaShoah


by Lisa Turner Fishman

Maybe I didn’t know the cold Gestapo breath on my neck, snows of human ash

or the stench of certain death squeezed up next to me

on a three-by-five wooden plank each night for seven years

…but then again, maybe I did

Maybe I don’t know the shame of a shaved head, branded flesh or public nakedness.

And I don’t dare judge those who were there, who couldn’t bear

to think about it, much less talk about it all these years,

whose Jewishness was perverted into a wound so tender,

it won’t be touched.

I haven’t one aunt, uncle, bubbe or zayde who was ripped from home to ride a cattle car

to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Sobibor.

But what I do know

(not what I have learned or read or heard, but know)

is this:

every time a Jewish boy whines because he must go to Temple on Yom Kippur,

missing school so that everyone will know he is different;

every one who believes his Bar Mitzvah is enough Jewish education;

every time the local Jewish paper announces a Goldstein engaged to  a Singh

or the birth of Christina or Conner James;

every Jewess’ child who wakes in late December to fascinate over a silver-laced tree;

every time a worker hides his religion for fear of discrimination,

and we gloat about finally achieving our immigrant grandparents’ longed-for assimilation,

with each of these, my friends, a Nazi soul dances with glee.

He did it, killed another Jew, made him or her a coward, shameful, dirty and worthy

of all the hate we have turned on ourselves.

We have become our own enemy.

Have you? Will you?

Forget the insults you took, forget about any of the six million people

you might have been, given a few historical seconds more or less?

Deny your own truth?

Will you admit that you, yes you, do not deserve to live?

Will you let those friggin’ Nazis win?


©Lisa Turner Fishman 2010


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