This poem of Jacob Sloan’s was inspired by an incident which he came across while helping to prepare for publication Leon Poliakov’s book on the catastrophe of the Jews under Hitler.
I was this baby crying with delight
at the skipping white kid and the golden
peacock flying from the far country of
Poland carrying a learned silken groom
to fetch me home in his black chemodán.
A soldier lights a cigarette.
I laugh, again,
at the whiteness shining on his gold bayonet.
I was this held son in my father’s hand
struggling with my tears, and against his soft
stroking explanation, against his pious
finger to the sky, sealed.
The soldier flings
the butt into the thicket whence no horn-
tangled ram’s pulled forward in my stead.
leans down and tells the live heads in the
what, silent, I deny. True, I must be
martyred. But there is no God, and I will
I am this old woman singing to another
woman’s baby what must always be, every-
where, sung to every born living one: Laugh,
and be loved.
I am this father, and I tell my
unmothered son what must be told to every
soon-to-die one: Heaven is open, and He
shall certainly remember.
You, end with love.