Two Poems About the Holocaust

by Katherine M. Searle

Study in Hypothermia

Spiny branches encapsulated in ice
twirl in an awkward St. Vitus' dance
as harsh winter wind buffets the sparkling tree
back lit by a garage light, a beacon
in the black swirl of pelting snow.

Distance is relative; perception suffers
as drifts accumulate like meringue dollops
falling off a spoon. Misjudgment is dangerous,
measured in minutes before hands clutch, claw-like
and frozen, grappling for a landmark in the winter mirage.

Multiply the fear and pain
like cancerous cells on a rutting rampage.
See the filthy grey-striped uniform freeze
and stick to the emaciated, skeletal body
whose eyes no longer plead or question or hate,
as the ever vigilant SS officer records data
with hands made clumsy by fur-lined leather gloves.

Night Sweats

The smell of sharp winter-cold air
Clinging on skin
Tells me I'm still alive; but
There's the rub.
There are many gradations of alive.
Discounting the outward physical
Signs of life,
I am wrapped in a cocoon of pain
Whose death throes
Awaken something in me. I am
An Auschwitz victim
The black aura vibrates.
When looking at the sunset, I feel
The collective pain of generations
Of hollow-eyed victims
Ringing the sun,
A mute corona of disembodied souls who
Reproachful, tear from me
An affirmation of their existence.
In their grip I am denuded,
Standing in the flash-fire,
Now a victim
Of Hiroshima's fall-out.
I can still smell the sharp
Winter-cold air,
Still know the relief
Of numbed bodies
Using each other,
Trembling on the piled bodies
Of mass graves, turning away
In the night to embrace
Yet another eyeless wraith
Stepping forward seeking witness.
I comply, knowing instinctively
The protocol
And, reaching out, grasp only
A charred
Mirror image
Crumbling to ashy loam,
Falling through extended fingers.