Sunday, July 18, 2004


In 1941 I was six years old, in Iowa, USA.
In the evening the sky turned lavender, deep blue, and purple,
We children ran hard, laughing and shouting our joy in
Our own special time, "the children's hour,"
Time for our last burst of energy, of unfettered happiness
Before our mothers and fathers would tuck us in safely for the night.

My wondering eyes were wide and hazel,
My dark hair naturally curly.

In Germany across the sea, also in 1941, in Poland, or perhaps in Czechoslovakia
Another child, a boy, also of six years, asked himself and he asked his mother
What had become of the children's hour.
His questioning eyes were dark and wide,
His dark hair a heavy mass of curls.

That night a comforting, almost mystical, a beautiful snow has been falling.
It's Christmas Eve, or Holy Evening
In fairytale, ancient Germany, then and always a land of beauty and wonder,
The Birth of the Holy One is coming again to their lives and also to ours, on this very night.
Grownups happily shout love to their children,
Joy fills their souls, families light their trees, and all rejoice to see the glow of God's love.
They eat Bratwurst and fresh-made bread, and they drink dark beer and good wine, all the while
Whispering out loud to each other, to anyone who can hear,
"The Christ Child is coming! Das Christ Kind commt! Der ist schon wieder hier!"

But on that night,
Never a special night: it was never a magical or a holy day
To the boy or to his family,
An iron door has slammed hard before the child in his terror,
He's destroyed, as his naked, sobbing body quakes in fear.
As he's erased from the earth, and his mother and father as well.
Powerful, angry men have said and are still saying grandly, obscenely,
That the child and his family are being liberated
From their despicable lives
As Jews.

In 1961, I teach ten year olds. I have a fifth grade. I'm twenty-six and healthy,
My life a comfortable and happy place to be. I love my work and the children I teach.
But I stomp my foot in rage and horror
As though my anger could somehow help the dark-haired child of 1941,
Or my rage be of any use to him.

If there were a way one could say to those who died for the grand design of an angry few,
If one could now say to the boy, to his teachers, to his family:
We are just all of us so very sorry.
We want to know how such a thing as this can ever have happened.
We were alive and we were well, even happy, while they were killing you -- many of our lives were going forward.
How could terror and death have become your reality -- and how could the knowledge of it now be ours?
We must never let go of our outrage, never, ever forget our anger.

Copyright 2004 by Diana Strelow.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.


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