The following was written for Grace's prompt at Real Toads - inspired by the life and writings of Paul Celan, who survived the Holocaust, where his parents perished. He lived the rest of his life in a landscape of depression. Towards the end of his life, he grew mute with sorrow, and committed suicide in 1970, at age 50, by drowning in the Seine. He had tried an earlier suicide attempt by plunging a knife into his chest, missing his heart by one inch. I tried to get inside his head, based on my extensive reading about the Holocaust, and a few essays about the poet and his life. His style was very dark and terse, so this will likely be a heavy read. I did not aim to write in his style but, rather, to write about how he must have felt, inside of all that painful history.
Wielding the knife, I miss my heart by an inch
and am forced to continue
this grey endless horizonless trek
across Abandoned Hope.
I am drowning in the weight
of all I have endured,
My heart can no longer carry
all I have lost.
I remember the stench, the filth, the lice,
the coughing, the hunger,
the bone marrow cold of the camps.
My parents' faces, as the guards signaled them
to turn to the left, I, to the right.
How can I bear still being alive?
How is it possible to smile, to chat,
to exchange pleasantries,
top up my coffee with cream,
in a world where madmen
torture the innocent,
the helpless, the hopeless,
then feed them to the ovens?
My pain renders me mute.
My history renders me mad.
I have lived a thousand darknesses*,
with one too few dawns.
*the phrase "thousand darknesses" from an essay about the poet by Luitgard N. Wundheiler, who described Celan's poetry as "creat(ing) a landscape of death"