Friday, January 27, 2017

ON INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY

We Jews remember; evolution has made it part of our DNA. We have been "the other" since the beginning. We have been hounded across continents. We have been the convenient object of whips, clubs, knives, axes, torches, bullets, and the much more "advanced" technology of gas chambers. 

Those who today self-assign as Nazis, or the so much more fashionable "Alt-Right" have no claim to notoriety except as brutes. And yet. And yet. 

Those who deny the barbaric deeds of a government and it's people deny my history, my existence, and although this pleases them, they are no more than a cruel mutation.

Those who play the anti-Israel game without concern that it fans the flames of Jew hatred, because it is The Bandwagon, because it is Politically Correct, because it is "intersectionality;" well, to them I say, lucky it's not you. 

I am an atheist. I am a Jew. If Hitler's (or Trump's?) Storm Troopers knock on my door I will be hauled away with those from the synagogue, regardless, because of my genes. There are no buts. 



And now a poem. I am not a poet, but many people are. Here is one that is not apologetic. Here is one filled with anger...righteous anger! Read it, to the end. I truly hope you don't enjoy it. 

-------------

a poem by William Pillin

FAREWELL TO EUROPE

1.

We, the captives of a thousand skies,
sang the airs of many peoples,
tango, waltz and leaping czardash;

but the waltz stumbles, the oboe
is poised on the brink of a scream.

We whispered madrigals of woe
in sewers and cellars.
We learned sparrow wit, hangman humor,
at the bottom of scaffolds,
at the gates of stone chimneys.

Europe, the odor of your guilt
lingers in our nostrils.
You are a perspective of walls
diminishing in cold moonlight.

Vanish from our songs!

2.

Will your pianos haunt us to the end?
The stars in your snows, O steppes?
the sunlight bleeding gold
on the rim of a snow-foaming mountain?

Facade of roses and wings,
shall we cloak our memories in blue
because your gardens sang to the sun?

The kaftan companions of the Presence
are swept from the streets of your cities.
Our migrants kiss a new wind
scented with ancient cedars.

Farewell, the Vienna woods are no longer calling,
or the grimacing spires of Cologne,
or your gleaming cupolas, Kiev.

3.

Your temples are Gothic stalactites,
frozen tears of eternity;
your gardens are lavender clouds;
your streetlamp shimmering buoys
of musical boulevards.

But you were never our motherland.
We were born
not on the Rhine or the Vistula
but in Abraham’s tent
on a journey from Ur to Judea.

This you never ceased to remind us;
that we are alien,
remote from you, the light of a dead star
that faintly lingers upon this planet.

4.

We are leaving. We take little with us;
some music, a few poems.

It is well that we stand under new arches
bequeathing to our children
our praises, our celebrations.

Our Einstein will toughen the mental sinews
       of other continents.
Our Freud will plumb the dark soul of Asia.
Our Marx will rally the cadres of jungles
       and savannah.

5. 

We are leaving. No longer will you have to cross
yourself, people with pitchforks and cudgels,
as our huddled remnants trudge over your
meadows.

O mother of white nights, after a millennium on
your steppes your hostages are pleading: let
us depart!

We are leaving our ancestral tombs, our shrines,
our wealth endlessly plundered by the card-
playing nobles.

We are leaving you forever, belching Siegfried,
Vladimir red-eyed from distilled potatoes!

6.

Europe, you realm of carnivorous blondes!
Your grand canals are clogged by chemical silt,
The sculptures of your saints are eroded by
pigeon droppings.
Smokestacks spew their black spittle on the
vineyards of Chateau de Rothschild.

Elegant bushmen celebrate your Requiem Mass
with tom-toms and banjos.

Even as you revel in your utopia of pig-fat,
blood sausage and Pilsen
you look nervously over your shoulder
at the lean wolves of the east.

They will strip your flesh leaving
the bare bones of cathedrals.
What the wolves will not eat -
monuments, fountains, castles -
will be shipped stone by antique stone
to the Disneylands of America.

7.

Basta! Genug! Assez! Dostatochno!

Farewell, blue-eyed maiden. You need no
longer exclaim on seeing the mark of
our ancient covenant: “You cheated me!
You never told me!”

Farewell, priests whose blood mysteries at
Lent goaded the tavern heroes to wield
their axes among us.

Zbigniew, whom will your children curse?
Zoltan, astride a stallion, at who will
you lash out galloping by?

You have no one to bludgeon but each other!


© by William Pillin 1975
in the abandoned music room

Kayak Books, Santa Cruz, CA

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