Anne Tzu Peng Lee
Carmelites at Auschwitz
Forty years from the event and we begin
to gather our nerves, begin to feel the weight
of that beam we were numb beneath for too long.
Have we in a first, timorous lifting merely found
the capacity to immure these gentle surrogates
in this monument to man’s obscenities?
I was not born when the Holocaust took place;
Auschwitz, Belsen, Dachau, Flossenburg
are foreign to me, names in history.
My links with them are in the human race.
And, understanding now what love may bring,
knowing that evil is not an individual thing,
I cry for what these sisters bear for us.
No, they are not there to redeem
that most contaminated piece of earth.
nor will their tears dilute the guilt
still seeping through the bloodstained stones.
The wholeness of their life is sharing death;
the silence, they know, speaks more than any prayer;
they must endure for us who dare not venture in
those cries from the forsaken and forsaking;
they are locked into those gas-rooms we abandon,
they relive each moment death uncountable.
They are the victims of our collective grief:
our collective sacrifice, for whom
a lifetime is too brief to concentrate
a fellow-suffering, or endeavour to send
further petitions to a God we cannot comprehend.