Czechoslovakia 1957

Barbed wire blooded with rust
circling crossed pine poles,
black symbol on an August sky.

Stifling in the wooden shed,
we scan the pictures of the dead:
old men and women
stiffened for the camera,
mothers and babies
chubby with love
and dark-eyed boys and girls
serious in their
black and white
Sunday best.

The men were shot
and buried here,
most of the children
smothered by exhaust gas
and the women sent to Ravensbruk,
many to die.
The village – their houses,
their church, even their graveyard –
burned and flattened,
wiped out as an example
to the resistance fighters
and revenge for those who
parachuted in from England
to kill the evil Obergruppen führer.

Roses from the world
now cloak this screaming place
with an unbelievable peace,
their scent, like the smell of blood
clings to the crucifix.


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