Did my eyes avoid yours, Brother?
~ Johannes Bobrowski, German lyric poet and soldier
Mustard grass to our hips – sallow as Gauguin’s
Yellow Christ, it blows its seed, mixing
with the must of mule fat and sage. When the wind
is this strong, I remember the year branches twisted
from their trunks onto my path toward Terezin.
They were everywhere, needling the numbered graves.
I think of how anonymity makes war possible.
Otherwise you couldn’t look your brother in the eye –
become one of Bobrowski’s slavering wolves,
an SS who drove the Jews toward
the wild smell in the woods and the old house
running down to the water. And you know
what’s coming. Listening as if you are a part
of the descent – the river and its copper-
colored trail – the blood wall where nothing
is wet only driven in like nails. It tastes of rust
in our mouths, of shadowlands and a boot
in the snow and even in this dry heat
your cheeks are damp. You know what a home
looks like because you came from a land
of sheepherders and milk cows, where ovens
were meant to keep a back warm in winter
and wagons bore the day’s wheat.
What can we carry away but a chance
to remember how a man is a lantern
lowered into the earth.
Lois P. Jones is host of L.A. radio’s Poets Café (KPFK) and is the Poetry Editor for Kyoto Journal. Some publications include Narrative Magazine, American Poetry Journal, The Warwick Review, and Eyewear. Her poems have won honors under judges Fiona Sampson, Kwame Dawes and others. Lois was the 2012 winner of both the Liakoura and Tiferet Poetry Prizes.