For Kerry’s Prompt Art Flash over at Real Toads.  Jamuary 27 was World Holocaust day.  I began writing this poem before that and finally finished it for this prompt.  The thinness of the man and his bald head put me in mind of many of the pictures of those liberated from the Nazi imprisonment.  The story of the communion is real, told me years ago by a priest who was liberated.

The Turning Point
David Bülow
Used with Permission

“The vilest deeds like poison weeds Bloom well in prison air; It is only what is good in man That wastes and withers there.” Oscar Wilde

we were herded together like cattle –
all of us –
cows, pigs, horses –
together and loaded onto a train to be shipped off
to who knows where.
We stood in our feces and urine and endured
the bitter cold. I wasn’t even Jewish.
I was Polish. I was Catholic.
The village priest was loaded along with us.
I remember that last day before we were liberated.
A bunch of skeletons rattling around.
One of the guards had in his kindness
obtained a small vial of wine and a communion wafer.
the priest broke the wafer into bits
and cast them upon the snow.
He splashed the drops of wine upon the snow.
We scooped up the snow with our hands
and took in the body of Christ.
I remember that day.
The ashes falling from the sky like bitter snow.
I rattle around in my closet now.
A skeleton remembering that day
and the bitter snow.

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kerry
    Feb 02, 2019 @ 13:32:45

    This story has given me chills, Toni.. So hard to imagine the depths of human depravity, but it is real and still abounds, but more than that, the endurance of the human spirit. The image of the communion wine in the snow will remain with me a long time.


    • kanzensakura
      Feb 02, 2019 @ 15:54:14

      Thank you Kerry. The priest shared his story of the 15 and finally 5 men who encouragedeach other through their ordeal. They thought they were soon going to be executed as the Nazis stepped up their killing of prisoners in the last days of the war. The guard thought so too and acquiesed to the priest’s request for a communion wafer. It was a rare bit of mercy.


  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Feb 02, 2019 @ 15:00:12

    There are so many stories to be remembered… these days it seems more and more important… and there are still stories waiting to be told.

    The wine in the snow was an image that made me think of it more as blood of Christ then with wine in a chalice.


  3. sanaarizvi
    Feb 02, 2019 @ 18:47:08

    This is achingly raw and evocative, Toni. Especially this: “The ashes falling from the sky like bitter snow,” made me shiver and gave me chills.


  4. Magaly Guerrero
    Feb 02, 2019 @ 19:45:28

    That rattle really sticks to the bones.


  5. kim881
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 03:39:47

    Your poem is all the more powerful being based on the truth, Toni. You didn’t hold back on the horrors, building them up to that terrible line: ‘A bunch of skeletons rattling around’ before foregrounding the kindness of the guard and the memorable communions in the snow. How that rattle echoes through your lines!


  6. anmol(alias HA)
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 09:51:43

    Oh, that gave me the shivers. It is so powerful how you render that story in your words. This line evokes so many emotions: “A bunch of skeletons rattling around.”


  7. coalblack
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 14:10:14

    Wow, this is searing. All the more so for being absolutely believable as something that doubtless occurred.


  8. Susie Clevenger
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 14:43:33

    Oh, this breaks my heart and yet your description of communion is a bit of light in the tragedy. I need to wipe away tears, and pray the horror humans can inflict upon fellow humans will one day end.


  9. isadoragruye
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 14:52:35

    You did a great job invoking painful imagery and that last line ties everything together nicely. Thanks for sharing!


  10. Vicki
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 17:11:01

    A heartbreaking beautiful piece.


  11. Mary
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 18:19:09

    This is really, really chilling….and heartbreaking!


  12. Sherry Blue Sky
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 19:32:05

    Light in he darkness – the priest and the communion in the snow…….this is why I have hope – human spirit rises spreading light in the darkest of times. A sorrowful yet deeply inspiring poem.


  13. Rosemary Nissen-Wade
    Feb 03, 2019 @ 22:01:27

    Wow, incredibly moving (as well as horrifying). You have retold it beautifully.


  14. Charmed Chaos
    Feb 04, 2019 @ 09:55:40

    Oh Toni- you have conveyed the horror so well here, and then the ray of hope in the white snow.


  15. Whitesnake
    Feb 04, 2019 @ 14:40:09

    Facing the reality of the beast.


  16. KB
    Feb 05, 2019 @ 23:05:04

    Heartbreaking times


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