Wertheim Park, Amsterdam; Camels at the Amsterdam Highway; Eve Sleeps

Wertheim Park, Amsterdam[1]
The woman rubbed her hands and stamped her feet.
We were gathered in winter in the Wertheim Park.
You forgot your gloves, I said in sympathy.
She gestured to her purse, and muttered work.

We’d come for the annual memorial march.
She stood in the shelter of an oak, her back to the stage,
apart from the crowds that filled the level park.
I wondered as I saw a man about her age

facing her, rocking heels, misting breath,
his quite large ears rimmed pink with cold.
Her hands began to move. I saw he was deaf.
She signed the things the Mayor and the Rabbi said.

Like frozen birds, her hands rose up and fell,
her black brows frowned and her face seemed to dance.
Her mouth made O’s, as if too shocked to tell;
words flew through her eyes and fluttering hands.

I watched him watching her in mute oration.
His hands in pockets, his mind tracks in silence
back sixty-seven years, to liberation,
the buried history of his lost parents.

The Rabbi’s prayers began: to remember them,
and all the numberless, nameless dead,
and all the known, too many to name,
so he sang a litany of camps instead.

Interlaced in the Hebrew melody:
Auschwitz, Belzec and Theresienstadt,
Westerbork, Dachau, Drancy, Treblinka.
How did she sign those names? What signs for that?

All I recall is her mouth made an O,
her hard brows as the general hell repeated,
all the names the same: O, O, O, and O.
Auschwitz, Belzec, and Theresienstadt,

Westerbork, Drancy, Treblinka, Dachau,
a crescendo of unspecified despair.
Could she speak the names with signs? Then how?
Still, her tireless hands cut the frozen air.


Camels at the Amsterdam Highway
Bactrians under the overpass
cut the view with double humps,
like mini-dunes or mountaintops
that cross the flats and slate-blue sky.

Watered here in daily rain,
far from desert sun and sage,
salt-pans, dunes and heat-borne flies,
needlegrass and Gobi shrubs,

they rest on knees and arch their necks,
oblivious to highway trucks
that hurtle down the overpass.
They deign to graze the plain Dutch grass.


Eve Sleeps
Each night we form a double C.
Hand rests on hip or curves to breast,
chest to back, his strong legs pressed
to make a chair of flesh for me.
Adjudications of the breath,
Adam’s apple near my head,
we’re stacked for storage in this bed
as sleep suspends us near a death.
Twins in the dark, we knit a seam
from toe to crown, a tensile wire.
Our eyes roll blind, they roll desire.
Locked in body, branched to dream,
we fall into this darker space.
Each cannot see the other’s face.

[1] Wertheim Park, in Amsterdam, is the setting for the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. During the ceremony, the Rabbi sings a memorial prayer for those who died in the camps.