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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

J is for Just Remember

I’ve been thinking about how the small things that happen to us, change us. I’m well traveled. My honeymoon was a three week adventure, driving around Namibia (what used to be German Southwest Africa) in an unair-conditioned Ford, diesel station wagon and camping under the stars. A weekend adventure to Costa Rica to zip line the canopy, only to sprain my ankle so badly, I couldn’t. Skinny-dipping in November in the Baltic Sea off of Sweden.

Visiting the German City of Dachau, on a rainy winter’s day to visit the concentration camp.

From the car, we followed the signs for the entrance, down a path along a gray concrete wall. A group of Czech teens were laughing and joking ahead of us. I think I looked up then because the wall seemed unnaturally high. That was when I realized we were walking the exterior perimeter of the camp. A guard tower peaked through the trees and vines, chilling me.

My husband took my hand.

Approaching the entrance wasn’t difficult, what made it hard was knowing that I was about to willingly walk through the gate when others had never had a choice. I needed to compose myself. I closed my eyes and was instantly swept back by the smell of fear coming from the railroad bed under my feet. Time was disjointed, I had to open my eyes.

I heard my name and moved closer to the gate. This is what I saw.




Being there was eerie, as again time wavered between then and now. The place wreaked of despair. My eyes watered the entire time.

As dusk approached, groups of people moved toward the gate. The Czech teens, subdued.
No shouts of Halt as I exited through the gate. No rapid fire machine guns popping. Silence except for the footfalls of those around me.

Then the sky exploded. A sonic boom, my husband said. I felt time tear and this is what happened.





DACHAU REVISITED

Metallic drizzle glazes the decades.
Knees tremble stepping from the car.
Our forced march through time defies fear.
Subtle grays disguise the truth,
a spasm of recognition etches guard tower, ruined wall.

Now covered in vines, leaves of brown
plaster tightly to bricks and mortar.
I walk, eyes straight ahead.
Grays shift in the corner of my vision,
twist into muted shapes of rigor mortis.

Wrought iron lies greet me.
Beyond, the shadows coagulate into ghosts of the once-living
wearing gray and white stripes like the criss-cross of barbed wire.
Gravel crunches underfoot; I taste ashes in my mouth.
Forced march -- double-time -- down the avenue to the gate.

I feel the noose around my neck, choking.
Ovens cold and dark, hungry lips coated with what I do not want
to see. I can’t close my eyes,
I don’t want to look.
I can’t stop.

Jostled and bumped by mournful souls, I flee
through the gate of lies.
Truth explodes around me.
A sonic boom rips through the air, tearing time.
Ghosts walk along side me, through me

Liberated.

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