Myra Sklarew, former president, Yaddo Artists’ Community, professor emerita, American University. Recent publications: Harmless, Mayapple Press; The Journey of Child Development (co-editor), Routledge: Taylor & Francis; poems in the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, Yale University Press; a forthcoming work, A Survivor Called Trauma: Holocaust and the Construction of Memory; “Leiser’s Song” in The Power of Witnessing, Routledge: Taylor & Francis. Recent readings: Science Cafe, Busboys and Poets; Barnes & Noble Books; Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore.
Like the deer stag in my garden
who batters his head with his hind leg
to free himself from a huge poplar branch
caught in the great crown of his antlers—
Like one of the furies torn from ancient myth—
I drag the forest along behind me,
my dead crowded together in their massacre pit.
Like Isaac’s ram, I am caught
in the thicket, singing their names.
Stolpersteine: a small cobblestone-sized memorial for a single victim of Nazism made by the artist Gunter Demnig.
Have you returned, in the goblet of time,
to bring the forest of the dead, their names
mounted in air in steel, the wind
forcing its way through the letters?
If they were covered by a thin layer of silt,
if they were face down in their deaths,
could their names allow light
to pass through them.
Have you come back? Your hand
on their heaving earth could not
quiet them, your stone of remembrance
on their chamber brings no comfort.
They toss in their earthen bed, they do not
sleep. The living grow impatient. The living
wish to speak. Rilke, you tell us
those who departed early no longer need us;
they are weaned from earth’s sorrows. But can it
end there? A ditch, a pit filled to the brim
with lives barely begun? A hundred years from now,
perhaps one who has lost his way
will come upon a dirt road and follow it
and come upon a clearing, a metal cup,
part of a menorah, like a stumble stone
marking a life.