Dedicated to a young family of Orthodox Jews
Efraim Moshe, Yehudt Rachel, parents
Shoshana, Elishama, Rivka and Sholomo Noach, children

Silent Sky

In Jonathan Schell's Fate of the Earth,
which people did not want to read,
but read,
Jonathan Schell promised insects and grass growing
after a nuclear holocaust;
small, scuttling creatures amid tall grass.

In Fate of the Earth Jonathan Schell promised global
and later
others wondered how cold the winter would have to
to imagine a global genocide.

That word - genocide -
touched a place in our memories,
so we pushed it away,
along with images of lilac, wheat and kittens,
lost forever in a global genocide.

and we pushed down the memories of a genocide
we are old enough,
or young enough to remember.

6,000,000 Jews,
3,000,000 others
lilacs bloomed this spring,
wheat is garnered in the golden fall
and kittens curl on winter's hearths.

6,000,000 Jews,
3,000,000 others -
their generations are lost, lost forever
in an authorized genocide.

Poet, shoemaker,
jeweler, movie maker,
philosophers, housewives, rabbis
were herded onto waiting cattle cars
to begin the jolting ride to the waiting camps.
Did the rails themselves sing some dread-filled dirge
above the muffled sobs?

A nation, calling itself Christian,
allowed Anne Frank, who loved the kitten,
to lie, dying of typhus,
listening to the screams of 1,500,000 children
going to be incinerated,
that is to say, BURNED.

A literate nation, calling itself civilized,
hurried to take care of its reasonable business;
fruitcakes baked to celebrate
the birth day of a male child of Jewish descent,
as orchestras and choirs practiced all those tortured
the notes, the words of Handel's Messiah.

Professors hurried to the library stacks
as Auschwitz' smoke curled above them
in a silent sky.

Women planned careers in mothering - or law -
teaching at the kindergarten or university level
and children of all ages
waited to open the gifts on Christmas Eve.

Joseph Goebbels said, near the end of that long genocide,
"We may lose the war, but the enemy will use our

Smoke curls now above small nations south of a river
     called the Rio Grande,
as well as in black and white movie clips of Hiroshima
     and Nagasaki.

Smoke curls in color above barrio, ghetto, reservation
as fallout from a desert test site carries the dust
to womb,
to infant,
to the wings of hospitals reserved for the young
     leukemia patients.

Smoke curls now as new Tridents are dedicated,
MX called Peacemakers
as some of us hunt for a more delicious,
more nutritious fruitcake;
smoke curls now in the silent sky above our heads.

Can we dare to look?
if we are brave enough -
or foolish enough to look, dear friends -
can we find in ourselves,
can we find in each other
the courage, patience, humor;
can we then see in ourselves,
can we then see in each other
the wisdom, and the Grace,
to seek Peace,
to pursue it?

Silent Sky, Rochester NY, 1986
Hope Publishing House

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