>arbeit macht frei
i am a damaged female.
the tour bus sped at alarming speeds through the forests outside of krakow. it was like the deeper we zoomed through the trees, the faster and deeper into hell we descended. i looked to see signs of the death marches that occured in the secrecy of these forests. my heart was a broken wagon on the dirt road.
first stop, auschwitz. oswiecim. whatever you want to call it.
arbeit macht frei.
electrified barbed wire fences everywhere.
guard towers that reflect my visage. i could see the shadows of their reflections in my own.
my stomach failed.
the judenrampe. naked men and women shot. so many bullet holes.
the dungeons. standing room only. 4 inmates in 1 square metre. hold on all night long.
mounds and mounds and mounds and mounds and mounds and mounds of . . .
shaved hair used to make rugs.
shoes. 80,000 shoes. tattered and worn. but still carrying colour. little red bows. strappy blue buckles. thick heels and delicate laces. shoes i would have worn. one amongst the the pile. a number. inconsequential.
i am an individual silenced, my shoes at the bottom.
suitcases with my name in chalk. born 1941. an infant when i died. more suitcases than life.
glasses, the wires interwined endlessly like a rope. lenses broken. i wonder who used to carefully clean those lenses before placing them gently on the bridge of their noses.
the gas chamber. i stand in the spot where thousands clawed at the doors, the walls, each other. i stand in the spot where i died. the cement walls echo screams. the vents shrieking zykon b.
i’m losing it, i’m losing it.
the crematoriums. ashes on my feet, inside the depths of the ovens. don’t touch me, i can’t hold it together.
walk out into the beautiful day. the sky is playing a game of red-rover. buttercups and light and chirps.
if it wasn’t a death camp, you’d think it was a lovely retirement home. architecture and amber grass and lush green forests like something out of dickens.
the train tracks go on forever.
the barracks. toilets without sewage pipes in the summer. bed collapsing with disease. showers and food and atrocities. children gauzed into the night.
they disappear like passing clouds.
the ride back is silent.
i want out, i want out, i want out.
hold my hand, and promise me that it’s over.
at night, we wander through the old town of krakow, come across a live musc club, where a stunning woman with a flower in her hair sings old jazz standards.
“what a wonderful world,” by louis armstrong, she sings.
today, the sky threatens us with showers.
we find oscar schindler’s factory.
dilapidated. restoration effort and museum underway.
save my life. save the world entire.
tomorrow i run away.
fly fly away.