I took a roadtrip east. One of my stops was in in Oświęcim, Poland. This book, The Auschwitz Poems, was in the bookstore at the original Auschwitz concentration camp. I knew I had to buy and read it after the first poem I opened to. I did not get there early enough to enter Auschwitz I, but a few minute drive got me to Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
It was surreal. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to finish processing what I saw, but I know that it’ll never be complete without delving into the human side of it… the heart of it… from the pain expressed as much as possible through the pen.
That first poem I read is below. Broniewski’s wife, Maria, was a prisoner in Auschwitz. Her death is listed as 1947 in an article about the poet, which tells me she, at a minimum, survived the extermination camp long enough to be liberated.
By Wladyslaw Broniewski
I want to breathe Warsaw air
In that air is my wife
Released with a smoke in the wind
Air – is her
There is a town called Auschwitz
A crematorium was there
And now it is saintly and holy
Soaring from there above history
How can I manage? What can I do?
Moan and leave
Behind me vessels with ashes
Behind me graves
And long gone youth
(15 I 1949)