For eight days each December they call out to me as the flame of the candles flickers out, “Remember me” they say in unison, “remember me”, in the voice of the child, an old woman, in Yiddish, in Polish, German, Czech, Latt. I want to remember but I cannot see a face reduced to ash, blended into the earth of a farm field outside Treblinka, the winter wheat remembers. I want to remember but I cannot stroke the head of a young man whose bones mingle with his brother’s, countless others sharing a mass grave, his skull and brains painting the trunks of a nearby stand of trees. I want to remember but cannot hear the sweet tenor of the cantor whose tongue was torn from his mouth for refusing to speak of the tunnels beneath his once beloved Warsaw. I want to remember the lavender scent of the young woman, fresh from the showers but there is only the stench of putrid flesh and Zyklon, of bodies crammed into the converted boxcar. I want to remember the taste of a warm challah on Shabbat eve that she lovingly shaped into a braid and pulled from the oven, but her arms were neatly removed by the surgeon before she was cast naked into the Polish winter. I want to remember them all, their names in a memorial but they are only numbers tattooed onto endless arms. The candles die and their voices fall silent for yet another year.
First Appeared in Rattle, Issue 7, Summer 1997. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
I picked up a book off the shelf this morning one hundred haiku
it was like sitting down a word starved man, tired of searching for an always denied sustenance, and here laid out before me, a repast of the sweetest grapes, bits of sugar caressing a tongue grown used to the often bitterness of ill-considered prose.
As midday approached I knew that this was a meal to which I’d return.
At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.