Born in ‘47

I cannot shut my eyes without seeing
A parade of black and white passport photos,
Monochrome faces of men who look uniformly old,
Gaunt and unblinking in the sight of the camera man,
Leaning on each other, having just dug their communal grave.
 
Women, segregated, sunken-cheeked, unknown
Outside the boundaries of memory, eyes unflinching…
Faces stunningly without hope.
Little Ones, all bundled up in warm jackets,
Smile for the camera.
 
The children’s eyes do not compromise.
Surely some of these children survived,
Eager to hide away, bear any cold,
Any stench, schooled and knowing
Life is a harsh treasure…capricious, cold and cruel—
 
The faces unreel on into my night, flashing by,
Reminiscent of old black and white snap shots
With serrated edges in family albums everywhere,
Faded and shockingly ordinary in the blandness
Of their weekend outings, their confidence.
 
Where do these images come from?
What countries? What century?
A roll call of combustible film,
Dreaming in silence, only let me wake.
I am not innocent.  If I was I could forget.
 
At least I know I am not innocent.
Heiress to glowering history, dust to dust,
Hang noose snaps, ash stings my eyes.
At least I know I am not innocent.
I cannot shut my eyes without seeing.  
 
—Linda Larson
 

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