Notes from SHOAH: Two Poems

The Sorting

“Le sort” is the French word for fate,
or lot, in this life, or in the next.

Less romantic than “le destin,”
it implies an act of choosing
done out of sight
on a distant mountain
or in an unmarked office building
by someone in whom
you have put great faith
but in whose inaccessible being
you have been tragically deceived.

A family is a pleasant fiction
not relevant at such a time
of transcendent reclassification:
men to the left
women to the right.

From now on you will observe
this distinction as your adopted
beloved religion, the same
subtle discrimination that gave you
that bright yellow star;
imagine what reward awaits
when we subdivide you even more.

A Logistical Nightmare

They had to be brought in by the trainload
paying, in principle, for their own fares.
Children traveled half-price, of course,
and those under four went free—
or without payment, to be more precise.
The company charged excursion fare
as it would have done for any large group.
The billing and ticketing procedures remained
the same as for any German vacationers.
Everything needed to seem as normal
as possible until they boarded.
The government had to pay for any damage
to the equipment incurred en route.
Each station had to be notified in advance
of when each train would be passing through
to keep the traffic regular, though it was heavy.
Each car, when full, put an almost
excessive strain on the infrastructure.
There were accidents and derailments.
Returning so many empty trains was also
very inefficient, and those routes
were often uncompensated.
The cars had to be cleaned out after every trip
or at least all the passengers removed.
The dying or dead were time-consuming
and some others would not run
despite all orders and persuasion.
Trains came from as far away as Greece,
presenting problems of currency, geography
and the corruption of local officials.
Hygiene had to be sacrificed
which led to a steady stream of complaints
and greatly affected worker morale.
It was hard to run a railway service
as we might understand the phrase.
There are no records of satisfied passengers,
and none of them made the same journey twice.

Brad Buchanan’s writings have appeared in nearly 200 journals, and he has also published three book-length collections of poetry: The Miracle Shirker (Poet’s Corner Press, 2005), Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter (Roan Press, 2008), and The Scars, Aligned: A Cancer Narrative (Finishing Line Press, 2019).

Appears In

Issue 11

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