by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)
My father escaped the Holocaust,
but suffered for it, and when, as a kid,
I pointed out he never actually
spent time in Auschwitz or Dachau,
he stared at me, “Same thing,” he said.
“You’ll see,” he added. When I pressed
him further, he said only one word: “Family.”
I didn’t see, the Holocaust becoming
just one more historical fact.
I began my own very secular career.
Then I saw a picture at a lecture
given by a famous art historian.
Thumbprints of dirt, blood, ink,
mounted upon rows of stripes
in different colors, an abstract
suddenly becoming very real—
a line of prisoners awaiting the
morning roll call in the freezing cold.
I looked closer at the thumbprints
and could see my father’s face.
“I am here, remember me, never forget.”
A generation later I am still safe, still free,
but the picture still haunts me.
“I escaped,” I said to the thumbprints.
“Oh, no, you didn’t,” I heard my father say.
And finally I understood his words.
Mel Glenn, the author of twelve books for young adults, is working on a poetry book about the pandemic tentatively titled Pandemic, Poetry, and People. He has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years. You can find his most recent poems in the YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy, edited by M. Jerry Weiss. If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit: http://www.melglenn.com/