The Imams Pray at Auschwitz – a poem by Phebe Jewell

The Imams Pray at Auschwitz

“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” – Adorno
I
Once you enter these gates
you know there is no place
to hide in the safety of metaphors.
The sky above you,
the earth below you,
the graves stretching all around you.
If you were to recite
all the names of the dead,
your lips would become numb,
you would lose your voice.
In the shadow of the chimneys
you must not submit to anything,
not even as you kneel at the Wall of Death.

II
Once you enter these gates,
you cannot escape
the factory of symbols,
churning out images day and night,
gestures of meaning,
left or right,
life or death.

Pity, love, reverence
will not save you,
your call to witness
will be studied, weighed, judged.

Yet every prayer is a question
with no beginning, no ending.
Pray you must, for the limits of prayer,
the betrayal of words.
Pray for the sky, the earth, the questions.

 

Phebe Jewell is a writer and teacher from Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in Bindweed Magazine, Crab Creek Review, and Crosscurrents.

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