winter crow

cover

 

Winter Crow

 

Winter Crow  is a work of poems by Jeremy Nelson and drawings by John R Walker.  It’s theme is the Sho’ah and it is particularly concerned with the creeping public amnesia surrounding this unparalleled atrocity.

Winter Crow was first published in September 2005. This new digital revised edition was published in August 2013.

Copyright   John R. Walker

All rights reserved as above.

 

 

I

 

 


Winter Crow

 

Crow in the winter light

is the dark companion.

 

Scaled legs apart,

his ironic umbra

cocks head,  quizzically

 

proclaims

across white day

that one worst word

end of all language.

 

 crows

 

Tableau

 

It is winter:  the woman’s coat thin check;

the dress black cotton.  Her head and her daughters’ heads

are covered by scarves.  The boy wears a cap.

Hand-held, the smallest child walks between

her mother and sister.  She is well coated

against  the chill;  she moves willingly like one

wanting to learn.  What have they told the child?

 

Her sister sees that gladness is no longer a gift,

It’s not fever that frets the mother’s mind

but something most frightful, something too pained

to weep.  The boy has lagged behind.  His will

would wisely take him elsewhere, but the snout

that shunts him forward is greater than God’s love.

He must go to where no child would go.

 

Ice creaks under their walk.  The air is as sharp

as gas.  Its cold incinerates.  No one

can take the scorched smell of smoke from their minds.

With a meekness not given them by Moses, they move

into the shadow of a psalm’s black valley.

Ten miles away, Jesus the Jew is worshipped.

 


Shower Room


As Zyclon B slides

through that child’s heart,

that woman’s mind,

death voids all trace,

and who strives now

to remember

is living history’s

true monument.

 

A photograph

on a curious gaze

sometimes imprints

perhaps an essence;

 

sorrow shudders,

stabs through the eye

and, like a child

in the wind, cries out:

 

“How could my kind

do this?”

 


 

A Few

 

I sense the dead

here, for there’s still

an unseen smoke.

Can one mistake

the smell of it?

 

They sought for joy,

as I did once.

No taste for it

lingers in the

red brick ovens

of the furnace block.

 

The womb-formed hand,

eyes and mind,

the heart and feet

were all turned there

to fire dust.

 

A few by chance

and time escaped

the final scourge.

They held to life

as thin with hope

as a hangman’s rope.

 


runningjewess 

 

An Ordinary Evil

 

 

Give me a true observant eye

that sees in people who they are

and sends out nothing from itself

to make another’s innocence

appear the monstrous mood that I

export, the beast I hate when lodged

in you; contempt for that projected

ghost allows the Nazi in my heart

to thrive and scheme unrecognised

and step by Pauline step to grow.

 

Then he’s the one that coming home

from work will pat the wagging dog

and tuck his children into sleep,

tell the bedside tales he heard

as a child, drink wine with his wife

and from his mind block out the smell

of ash, the blanch of skulls that fire

does not break but his foot must.

 

Eyes that will not love do not

see but merely note the seem

imposed on things. If joy’s a proper

light for truth, then love’s its maker

I mean attentive joy that holds

the other and admires it

in all its parts because it is

itself: the winter tree whose top-

most twigs now shine like spokes in wind

and light, each wound healed smooth with bark;

and buds that like the tips of war

 shells wait for spring to cry explode.

And if its depth’s not wickedness

that’s how I’ll view the human face

when joy’s the artist in the eye;

but if I dare not know myself

the heart will launch dark shades to make

the other first my enemy.

 

And next day when I wake and dress

in power’s cap and shiny boots

I’ll pat the dog, my children’s heads,

I’ll kiss the wife and go to the camp

with you, my friend yes! you who walked

with me the weekend city then herd

my quota to the killing place;

and there I’ll scourge and crucify

and burn and know we’re doing right.

 

 

 

The Shoe

 

 

It’s merely a child’s shoe,

and she who wore it once

is dead.

 

So toss it on that pile there

where the thousands

grow into the millions

building the pyramids.

 

We tidy the past up

and put it out of mind,

for who can feel such things

and not go mad?

 

If to forget is all,

our peace lies there and not

in horrors that once were

though we dream them still

in that nightmare fiction

called history.

 

Let no strong word

warn us like a prophet’s

tongue of what the heart’s

black stone brings us to

again and again.

 

It is too hard to live

such truth . The real  destroys

the moment’s pleasure, wrecks

the time to come, and we

would rather hear the loud

rock siren whose beat stops

thought and wildly bind

ourselves to speed and the sex

gods selling the great life.

 

We live in the moment

not the eternal one,

for that’s the old nonsense

of the dead Jew.

 

The shoe you found

is merely a child’s shoe.

So toss it on that pile there

and forget forget.

Besides the girl is dead,

of another country,

and another time.

 crowfeet

 

Ezekiel

 

 

From butcheries,

from the death factories,

 

from long ovens

and the mass graves,

 

call them back.

 

That their bones rise,

their ashes live.

 

and new speech bloom

like jasmine spring,

 

Ezekiel,

call them back!

 

 

 

Pedestrian

 

A rabbi at thought in his beard

ambles this river-wide street.

 

His heart is with Moshe.

Maimonides inhabits his mind,

King David his tongue.

 

His Hebrew is jasmine.

Stooped in his coat of black,

he stands out from the throng.

 

His apple-bright soul

is singing shalom .

 

 

Epstein’s Peniel

 

As Jacob’s head tilts wildly

back, the Angel’s eyes

burn down like flame

to temper steel.

 

That face is fierce with mercy,

and what it finds in Jacob’s

strength it wounds

and names anew.

 

Bruised, exhausted, blood-

smeared from his alabaster

deep Israel gleams.


 

Postcard from Masada


Sodium green, the Dead Sea

floats the desert hills away.

 

Gales grind the rock.

Air tastes of dust.

 

Winter cloud carries

cold rain.

It loosens the land.

 

The gazelle that leaps

from cliff to cliff

is the Dead Sea’s rainbow.

 

Desert trees camp alone.

Cloud shadows move

like grazing shoals.

 

The nets of mountains

cannot trap them.

 

That is not snow

on the white road

but sand as bleached

as men’s bones.

 

On this plateau rock

Herod once built


 

a fort for safety,

a palace for pleasure.

 

Across their cisterns

a chill wind keens

in ancient Aramaic.

 

Masada’s

the hardness of Hebrew,

the fierce shape of courage.

 

Eleazar,

fought against Rome.

Driven here,

his troops and their kin

 

refused to be slaves,

and he and his men

slaughtered themselves

with woman and child.

 

The few who escaped

cried to Josephus.

 

Still the land smoulders.

Like battle smoke

still the dust swirls;

 

and sins of the present

as those of the past

grow faint like the hills.

 

 

Killers

Killers,

who praise

idols,

are not

martyrs.

 

To mix

Allah

or taint

Adonai

with bombs

that breed

by the

day, with

bullets

that fly

in the

night,

 

to foul

with random

Death,

strapped to

Despair,

Jacob’s

children,

 

to split

with a

rifle’

curse the

Prophet’s

men in

holy

Hebron

 

is to

butcher

Sarah,

slaughter

Hagar.

 

Murderers

are not

martyrs.

 

 

 threeheads

 

 

 

 

 

 

II

 

 

 

 

Kostas Karmayolas

 

 

On the holy mountain

the monks are wailing

for the spilt seed,

the midnight clotted blood,

the lost children.

 

Two hundred, Kostas said.

Between Tolo and Assini

two hundred men were marched out.

Their brains creaked and jolted,

their minds a galaxy across

with the greatness of terror.

Bullets broke their lives

in an instant

as if balloons had burst.

 

Last season’s olives are too hard

for grief to digest.

Only earth can consume this sorrow,

only wind and the sea dissolve.

 

In late afternoon

light trawls the sea

to the white bone bottom.

Waves move under the skin of the water,

from beach cafés, juke boxes

derange the quiet.

 

An old man,

flesh of marble and leather,

dances and clicks, arms outstretched,

bows like a wave breaking and claps.

Calls Chorevete.

Before him,

his shadow straightens and stamps.

 

Wild goats caper

on the Breasts of Aphrodite

or stand stock still there.

Kostas thinks he sees their yellow eyes.

He yearns for his father,

the greatest of dancers.

 

Gold on the black bay

the marble island

dies last into dark.

Beyond the stars,

beyond night and mourning

an old man dances.

 

 

 

Ideology

 

 

Righteous pistols

preach

to kneeling skulls.

 

 

 

 

Hiroshima

 

As Hiroshima flared

for Truman von Clausewitz

in its bowl of green mountains

 

the free world of the West

clapped loudly and cried:

Victory, not death!

 

Yet even the womb child

collapsed in those flames,

and frail hopes of children

 

grew inly distorted

generation on generation

through the gift of the body.

 

At that moment of blast

the mountains blistered;

under the firework plague

 

trees turned to vapour,

and the ethics of innocence

fell to its ashes again

 

as in Eichmann’s Auschwitz,

Stalin’s gulag,

Churchill’s Dresden.

 

 

 

Nagasaki

 

 

Nagasaki

walled within its chamber

of doomed hills

 

concentrates the pragmatics

of the military mind:

 

this second strike

waging peace,

exporting death

to drive Death off.

 

All the President’s

generals chanting

to adult and child:

kill or be killed!

 

Atomic sacrifice

our sacred duty,

its moral instrument

the Fat Man

 

cloaked

in the Nation’s Flag,

singing while he falls,

as if to fife and drum:

 

Sweet victory has come!

 

 

 

Where Fat Man Fell

 

 

Against the museum’s white wall

blue dragonflies

lift and hover on leaf-veined wings.

They trap my sight;

they take me down deep to the past,

into that pit

where Fat Man  fell,

Adviata of death,

President’s gift

of a thousand suns,

to an alien people.

 

Myriads instantly ceased

amid red ash of wood

and paper, fallen towers, splintered

steel and walls

standing in bits, stained with shapes

of the vaporised dead;

yet some still lingered in the toxic

dust adults,

children blistered, begging for water.

 

What’s done is done!

The past is always;  it is endless,

the anti-amnesiac

source of truth. Open it up

to redeem the days.

 


 

 

 

Question and Answer

 

 

I

From cold ash

the dry lips

of children ask:

 

By what strange choice

did evil wish

to keep itself

within the bounds

of our scorched hills?

 

 

II

The art of war,

like all man’s art,

entails restraint.

 

We calculate

our ends, weigh up

child innocence

against our need.

 

You are the lambs

of sacrifice

on whose burned blood

we build our peace.

 


 

 

III


 

 

Orpheus

 

for Fr Frans Baartmans

 

By wound made dense,

she speaks to no one

and turned to the wall

goes from her pain.

 

Only my friend

dare call her up.

His flute lifts her.

She climbs from torpor

 

note by note,

opens her eyes,

smiles on a world

again made whole;

 

soft arpeggios

then drift her back

to that blank womb.

 


 

Dying Bee

 

 

 

Your once exquisite

sense of place has gone.

 

You’ve lost your hive

and cling to a dry bloom.

 

O maker of sweetness,

mistress of alchemy

the night has come.


 

 

 

Autumn Lament

 

 

 

Into half chill

autumn goes.

The ageing trees

are turning mad,

shaking off

their winter clothes.

 

Carrion birds

with winter voices

are laughing over

summer’s carcass.

 

Each living leaf

and human tongue

will taste but silence

one by one.

 


 

 

 

Poems of Loss

 

 

 

I

The Angel has gone

the brilliantly winged

the one who carried us

always close to the real .

 

 

II

We deliver our children

to hard generations

where shalom -craft

has found no place.

 

 

III

The storm that blows

through our history

is amnesia’s gale,

bringing the dunes.

 

 barb

 

 


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