The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

 

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

chatter and snipe at me constantly, as if I
were responsible for their being there. But I

ignore all their remonstrative and sarcastic
remarks. Favoritism or fraternization

with the enemies of the State is forbidden,
and I won’t tarnish my reputation or my

family name by giving them special privileges
that might alleviate their misery. Don’t they

deserve what’s happening to them? Didn’t they kill
our Lord and Savoiur? My best friend Kurt, though he wears

the same uniform as I, is not as cautious,
not as circumspect. Why shouldn’t we be paid to

do our job in this God-forsaken Ghetto and
be rewarded for sometimes not doing it as

well? he says before he slips behind the bricked wall
or behind the stack of bodies with his latest

protectee, a beautiful girl who hardly looks
Jewish at all. We’re much closer to the Front than

we are to home, he reminds me, buttoning his
uniform after he returns. Such things are routine

at the Front, he says, and he should know since
his brother was killed there only last spring. Sometimes,

I admit, I’m tempted when I see some lovely
girl who’d do anything for only a bit of

brown bread or a piece of sausage. I even caught
myself wondering what one of them might do for

a bite of chocolate or some cigarettes. But they
heard my innocent musings and have fastened their

rolled-back eyes on me ever since. I get angry,
threaten them, poke them with my bayonet: leave me

be, I shout. But their gaping mouths tsk tsk tsk at
me until I light up a cigarette and toss

the still-burning match onto one of their lolling
tongues. That usually silences them. These bodies

should be carted away and dumped somewhere, but Kurt
claims they’re here as a symbol to the living. As

far as I can determine, these beggars ignore
their dead. Instead they scurry around, stealing food

from each other, trying to bribe me or one of
the other fellows, hurling themselves over the

wall or through the wire. And the dead bodies that line
the streets certainly don’t care about their living

comrades or they wouldn’t lie around spying and
gossiping to annoy me, trying to prevent

me from doing my job. The bodies that line the
streets should be hauled away and incinerated,

their ashes scattered to the heavens. Then I could
perform my duties without interference, eat

meals without tasting dust,
sleep at night without dreams.

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Read excerpts from 
Where Lightning Strikes:
Poems on The Holocaust

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets chatter and snipe at me constantly, as if I were responsible for their being there. But I ignore ...
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Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs)

Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs)

Not last night but the night before, twenty- four Gestapo came knocking at the door. As we ran out, they ran in, and this is ...
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We thought, at first, that we were imagining them: that sliver of disturbed dust by the sidewalk, that hint of damp on the kitchen floor ...
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Letter to Sylvia

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I praised the dead, which are already dead, more than the living, who are yet alive. Ecclesiastes 4:2 For years, whenever I thought of visiting you, a certain ...
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Where Lightning Strikes: Poems on the Holocaust

© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
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