Humanity

by Riley Levine
Humanity

I watched, but I could not see clearly. I stood, but I did not move an inch. I opened my mouth, but no words came out.   I watched, with tear-filled eyes as those […]

I watched,

but I could not see clearly.

I stood,

but I did not move an inch.

I opened my mouth,

but no words came out.

 

I watched, with tear-filled eyes

as those around me were taken away.

I watched, as the soldiers came like a storm,

with no mercy in their hearts.

I watched men’s, women’s and children’s lives being taken.

I watched, as they came like a fire,

consuming everything they believed to be wrong.

I watched, with fear in my heart,

but still I could not grasp what I saw.

 

I stood, with unstable feet,

as the gunshots echoed in their neighborhoods.

I stood as their forces struck like a hawk on a newborn rabbit,

with pain in their closed minds.

I stood, as children starved,

with no one to care for them, to look after them.

I stood, when their men came,

taking lives, taking their victims’ dreams.

I stood, only protected by my identity,

but still I did not move an inch.

 

I opened my mouth, only to hear silence.

I opened my mouth to their cruel deeds

but fear kept my words trapped inside.

I opened my mouth when they marched

with blood-red arm bands alongside one another with pride,

but imprisoned by their own hatred.

I opened my mouth behind their backs,

but my silent prayers

would not penetrate their stone-hard minds.

 

I watched,

but I could not see clearly.

I stood,

but I did not move an inch.

I opened my mouth,

but no words came out.

 

I heard.

I heard the knock.

The single knock.

The one that put my family’s life on the line.

The one that fixed my distorted view.

The one that mended my broken legs.

The one that quenched my dry mouth.

 

Two women and a child begged for safety at my door step.

I knew who they were.

I bought leather from their shop in the Jewish quarter.

Many thoughts raced through my confused mind.

I could not take them in, nor could I be responsible for their deaths.

 

Suddenly, I looked with new vision.

Suddenly, I stepped forward with stable legs.

And slowly, one word came out of my mouth,

 

Yes.

 

 

Unaware.

Unaware of the journey I would take.

Unaware that my temporary offer to keep them hidden in my well,

would extend to a year in a double wall, that I would build for them in my barn.

Unaware that I would feed and take care of them,

when I could barely take care of my own family.

Unaware that I would trade my protection for their lives.

Unaware that I could stare into a Nazi’s eyes and lie.

Unaware of the courage that I would need to survive.

Unaware of the amount of compassion in my heart.

Now.

Now I see clearly.

Now I stand tall.

Now I speak the truth.

Now I feel my humanity.

This poem is inspired by a true story of one my close family friend’s mother (the child mentioned, who I interviewed), grandmother, and great aunt (the two women mentioned). They were hidden for a year during the Holocaust by a family, the Rajskis, in a double wall in an attic of a barn. The Rajskis were the only non-Jewish family they had known because they had shopped at their leather shop. After losing communication for forty years, the families now keep in touch and share a special connection.

 

 

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