Poland 1 – Birkenau

Haunted
The silence is haunted
With the wailing, screaming and shouting,
The ghosts of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the empty railroad tracks,
Hundreds of ghosts walking, bewildered, shoving, pushing
Walking
Wailing
I whisper their names as I walk towards
The willows on the far end of the forest of burned-out chimneys piercing the sky
I whisper their names
There, in the woods on the edge of the camp, past the endless symmetric rows of chimneys
The plane trees and grass sway in the wind, whisper their names
A deer darts out of the thick, green veil, a rabbit scampers in front of me on the path, a tractor hums in the distance
The frogs bellow from the ponds scattered about the meadow,
The water a shroud for the bones and ashes of my cousins, aunts, and uncles
I whisper their names
And walk and wail
Silently
Haunted

Poland 2 – Siedlice

Haunting,
Empty
The town is completely, utterly empty,
Empty of my children chattering on the way to heder
Empty of my men spilling out of the beit midrash, arguing about the Torah portion on their way to work
Empty of my women exchanging news on their way to the market
Empty of my schools, synagogues, community buildings
Empty of my family, of their friends,
Empty of everything that was mine.
Nothing to see, nothing to show for centuries of life, commerce, study,
An entire world erased, utterly
Wiped out
Boarded up,
Gone.
The beit hamidrash knocked down to make way for a glass and concrete post office,
The old cemetery a housing project,
The new one, an empty iron fenced field, the orange tipped grass hiding a few neglected stones
Still standing
Silently testifying:
Once upon a time there was Jewish life here.

Ilana Greenberg Kraus

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