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July 13, 1999

by Miriam Sagan
 

EARS OF THE RAT


Ears of the rat
Resonate to the snake
Moth hears only
Bat, sonar, mid-flight
Warsaw Ghetto, 1940
A boy and a girl
Trying to read by a candle

A long time ago
Winter up in La Madra
Desolate land made beautiful
By tamarisks
Cold, harsh, dark men
Standing around something burning
In the frozen noon
That was the first time
I ever heard the song
Desmond Decker singing --
Wake up in the morning
Slaving for bread
So that every mouth
Can be fed
Oh, the Israelite

Now, years later, you tell me
Israelite
Means not just the Jews
but anyone oppressed
Living in a cardboard box
On the street
Of kingston, calcutta, new york

I've built a fire
Your footprints
Haven't filled with snow
I don't know what to make
Of the face of the woman
Who died in Auschwitz
Her nephew sitting in her lap
Is now a man in Kansas I know
A Tibetan tanka
Hangs on our living room wall
On it I see
Suffering of ordinary life
The face of the author
Looks out at me from the back of the book
Her green eyes tell once again
500,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto
I'm saying "Poland" as if it meant something
On the tape deck
The dead girl sings
"Knocking on Heaven's Door"
Like a trapeze artist
Spangled angel without a net.
 
 

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