Starvation Camp Near Jaslo
Write it down. Write it. With ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they weren’t given any food,
they all died of hunger. All. How many?
It’s a large meadow. How much grass
per head? Write down: I don’t know.
History rounds off skeletons to zero.
A thousand and one is still only a thousand.
That one seems never to have existed:
a fictitious fetus, an empty cradle,
a primer opened for no one,
air that laughs, cries and grows,
stairs for a void bounding out to the garden,
no one’s spot in the ranks.
It became flesh right here, on this meadow.
But the meadow’s silent, like a witness who’s been bought.
Sunny. Green. A forest close at hand,
with wood to chew on, drops beneath the bark to drink –
a view served round the clock,
until you go blind. Above, a bird
whose shadow flicked its nourishing wings
across their lips. Jaws dropped,
At night a sickle glistened in the sky
and reaped the dark for dreamed-of loaves.
Hands came flying from blackened icons,
each holding an empty chalice.
A man swayed
on a grill of barbed wire.
Some sang, with dirt in their mouths. That lovely song
about war hitting you straight in the heart.
Write how quiet it is.
(from Salt 1962)