Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
While the innocents were being massacred who says
that flowers didn’t bloom, that the air didn’t breathe bewildering
that birds didn’t rise to the heights of their most accomplished
that young lovers didn’t twine in love’s embraces
But would it have been fitting if a scribe of the time had shown
and not the monstrous uproar on the street drenched with blood
the wild screams of the mothers with infants torn from their arms
the scuffling, the senseless laughter of soliders
aroused by the touch of women’s bodies and young breast warm
Flaming torches tumbled down stone steps
there seemed no hope of rescues
and violent horror soon gave way to the still more awful
numbness of despair
At that moment covered by the southern night’s light shadow
a bearded man leaning on a staff
and a girl with a child in her arms
were fleeing lands ruled by the cruel tyrant
carrying the world’s hope to a safer place
beneath silent stars in which these events
had been recorded centuries ago.
Massacre of the Boys
Translated from the Polish by Adam Czerniawski
The children cried, “Mummy!
But we have been good!
It’s dark in here! Dark!”
See them They are going to the bottom
See the small feet
they went to the bottom Do you see
of a small foot here and there
with string and stones
and little horses made of wire
A great plain closed
like a figure of geometry
and a tree of black smoke
with no star in its crown.
[The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948]
Passion of Ravensbrück
Translated from the Hungarian by Janos Csokits and Ted Hughes
He steps out from the others.
He stands in the square silence.
The prison garb, the convict’s skull
blink like projection.
He is horribly alone.
His pores are visible.
Everything about him is so gigantic,
everything is so tiny.
And this is all.
the rest was simply
that he forgot to cry out
before he collapsed.
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