the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




FOUR WORKS
BY LARRY JAFFE

CATTLE CAR
Cattle Car is dedicated to the members of the Jewish Warring Organization who struggled against tyranny and put up the resistance.

I cannot see myself boarding a train to oblivion
a rail to nowhere going along with the herd for a ride

I cannot see myself despite my Jewishness
going into a cattle car under anyone's volition
let alone my own

I cannot see myself riding the rails of a cattle car
packed inside like human sardines and someone else
holds the keys to my future

I cannot see myself climbing into the car
or letting my family climb in this car
without a fight

I see disheveled disoriented Jews going
for a ride, one-way tickets clutched in
hands not made of fists…

—they travel to Auschwitz or Buchenwald

I wonder about the travel agent that sold these tickets
and the tour guide from hell that gave them the ride
I cannot see vacationing in Poland as a holiday

This was not Noah’s ark it was Hitler’s ark, Nazi's ark

—They were not taking two of every species
they were taking six million of one

But I cannot see myself walking calmly without a fight,
suffering the dishonor of mental dismemberment
slowly to holocaust away.

—Number tattoos are not rosebuds or nametags

—Some say you were not there I say I was and am reborn yet again…

This was death camp and I do not hear cries of joy,
only the sounds of vultures parading in goosesteps.

But the Nazis were very polite in their violence
their uniforms crisply cut bleeding the fingers
that clutched them

The camps so spotless and scrubbed
even the ovens were self-cleaning
I wonder who made them

The Nazis so well spoken— relocation they preached,
the ghetto is so dirty, scour your soul, clean up your act—
take a shower in this stall without drains

They said it so politely—

Very few resisted and went willingly
going on one-way holiday, bags packed
with all perishables

Where were the men
Where were the women
as mankind and children were
merchandised and victimized?

They were just following orders
the Nazis were just following orders
the Jews were just following orders
today's Nazis are still following orders

I cannot see myself following orders
I will not follow orders.

================

ANTHEM

Listen closely; you can still hear the sound
of the third Reich marching…

Listen as boots jackhammer
across pavements and boardrooms

Listen as crowds shout in streets
terror rises from asphalt paved with bones

You can still hear them scream
You can still hear Hitler scream
You can still hear the dead rattle

Sieg Heil
(jackhammer boots march on asphalt)
Sieg Heil
(arms goose step)
Sieg Heil
(jackhammer boots click heels)

Heil Hitler
(arms shoot up)
Sieg Heil
(boots again click heels)

La Chiam
(arms pumped fists)

La Chiam
(arms never waver)

Grief stricken relatives should not hold hands
they should build fists not excuses

================

OPPRESSION'S SHADOW

If you look closely at every gentle being
and even those supposedly fierce
you will see shadows crossing their face
masking their features closing eyes

Shadows of oppression are
worn behind smiles and lies

I no longer desire to carry this
yoke of slavery and suppression

I no longer wear shadows of oppression
on furrowed brow, nor drink from its trough

You can no longer imprison me
with your own inadequacy
nor lock me in chains of deceit

I am a slave no more
I wear yoke and shackles no more

You may wield your impotence
like a magic wand but its flagging spirit
can never imprison anyone again

================

JAMAH
becoming one

Have we never been
other than
one?

I ask this question
with sincerity
seemingly lacking
yesterday.

You beg me;
take you to the
mountains
this morn.

to climb and climb
till’ bodies break,
but spirits know
to continue,

to heights spoken
only in dream but
arrested before
attaining.

The climb is endless,
few landmarks. Flowers
clamor but we seek
precipice.