“A Garden” by Ayesha F. Hamid
neon garden in flight
a spinning vortex
circling till the end of time.
neon garden in flight
a spinning vortex
circling till the end of time.
Immutable rules govern our world such as the law that no matter the time or space in which it occurs, evil committed by humans against other human beings leaves its mark, and regardless of the amount of time it takes, the truth will always surface. These ideas, as well as others, are explored in depth in Richard D. Bank’s I Am Terezin.
With meticulous historical research and great care, Bank has painted a vivid picture of the people and personalities associated with the events that took place at Theresienstadt during the Nazi Holocaust. I Am Terezin is a revolutionary memoir – unlike others, it is written from the point of view not of a person, but of a physical entity, the camp itself – an omniscient narrator. The voice of the camp comes alive to relay the ominous reality of itself, and it tells the reader what Theresienstadt really was, a concentration camp and not the paradise ghetto for elderly Jews the Nazis claimed it was.
The changing tone and perspective of the omniscient voice is compelling. The voice of the camp takes on many roles – a caretaker in one moment, a silent observer in another. It can be argued that the voice of the camp is none other than that of a lamenting God, unable to intercede in the world of human atrocities and forced to watch insidious actions play out.
No matter the tone or perspective, the abuse, injustice, and crime which occurred at Theresienstadt is resurrected for the reader, and the reader comes to learn intimately about the lives of innocents who were forced to be bound within the walls of Terezin. Each word and sentence of I Am Terezin is written with great care, paying homage to the many who lost their lives at Theresienstadt. In taking part in the arduous undertaking of researching and telling the story of those at Terezin, Bank has completed the ultimate labor of love in tribute to his grandparents, Ludwig and Sophie Frank, who were imprisoned at but subsequently survived Theresienstadt.
Bank is masterful in his knowledge of the history of Theresienstadt, and I Am Terezin is a must read for scholars of the Holocaust, as well as those interested in bettering the human condition. Reading this book will help the vigilant to reaffirm the oath of never again. Never again should sadism be allowed to hide behind laws and systems meant to dehumanize. Never again should humanity allow the atrocities of genocide to occur. Never again should any people be persecuted for the faith they follow or for the way in which they worship the Divine.
I Am Terezin is published by Auctus Publishers (www.auctuspublishers.com) and available at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.
You can trust the misfits more
than people who are cool,
the ones who always fit in,
able to change skins
like chameleons on catwalks.
Whenever you are dismayed,
your heart steering you towards
hating people who betrayed,
try to grasp at any shred
any thread that you can use
to find your way back
to the fount of forgiveness
to the freedom that is love.
Please check out my latest publication, The Search for Calm Among the Chaos, at Rathalla Review.
The cold December frost made my teeth chatter involuntarily as I came out of Kroger’s grocery store. I remember I needed red and green lace for my second grade social studies project, which would depict various holiday themes of the season. Hurrying through the parking lot, I searched for the cream-colored Chevrolet. It was so cold and all I could think about was getting into the car. Finally, the door unlocked and entry was permitted. Relieved by the warm air, I felt the blood in my face and hands return to regularity. Noticing the mist form on the windows, I wiped it away with my pastel blue sweater. I looked at the embroidered edge of the pretty blue sleeve. As my eyes moved from the interesting lines of the sweater back to the window, I noticed a tall, thin stranger approaching our vehicle.
“Let’s go,” I said to my parents. The stranger frightened me because it seemed as though in between his skin and bones he contained no noticeable amount of flesh. His forehead and cheekbones protruded greatly giving him the look of some ghoulish skeleton that had wandered far from his place of burial. My father trustingly rolled down the window.
“Clean your windows, mister?” the skeleton asked my dad with a painful apprehension.
“All right,” my father replied.
Encouraged by the reply, his long, ripped fingers moved to a badly torn pocket to take out an ice scraper and rag. I watched on with curiosity. He noticed my glance and returned it with an awkward yet prepossessing smile. The smile was not from any obligation on his part and made me feel strangely guilty for having been so afraid of him simply for his appearance. He cleaned the small layer of residue that had formed on the windows. The ice scraper made a funny, screeching sound, which held an echo in my ear. As he moved from window to window, my eyes followed him without flinching.
“Done, sir,” he stated after a minute. His hand shivered slightly as he held out his hand for the money which he had earned. He must be cold, I suddenly thought to myself.
“Thank you, sir,” he said before he walked away. Though the payment my father had given the stranger did not amount to a huge sum, it was enough for him to buy a cup of coffee which would warm him for at least a minute before he would again leave the warmth for a winter of frozen skin and frozen dreams.
Note: this piece was the recipient of The American Association of University Women’s (Lansdale Branch) Excellence in Writing Award and was originally published in the 1996 Anthology of Poetry and Prose.
The eighteen wheeler drives by
red, green, and blue on the sides
speeding on, screeching at turns,
causing a fear of life,
a fear of death, a feeling which turns
as the wheels turn
sounds drilling down
deep into marrow before hitting the ground.
The truck passes, the sound dims
so all the fear felt quiets and passes.
Regret is realized as all that time
that was swept, the fear taking away
most moments till nothing was left.
I wish I didn’t think of you every time
I ate ice cream but I’m reminded
of the ritual of dinners on Fridays
and the ice cream afterwards.
If only vanilla or strawberry had sufficed
we wouldn’t have had that fight.
We could have continued
to talk and laugh and thrive
a whole world left for us to explore
though to traveling with me,
you always said no.
Simply put, simple flavors never interested you.
Everything you wanted had to be the best,
complex, like cookies and cream
with chocolate sauce, butter pecan with
whip cream on top, little edible masterpieces
for the world to see, while my scoop of
strawberry made you to scoff.
Still, you didn’t understand
why I asked us to part.
What point did you see? How would you possibly
ever have learned the truth about me,
that I’m predictable, simple, and sweet,
just like a scoop of strawberry ice cream.
Will your little hands comparable to
the tapping hands of Handel
Will your young mind comparable
in acumen to Curie flourish?
How much violence deflects and how much
is imbibed by your little, grandiose mind?
Remember that perfect railroad track, your trains
turning the corners of a miniature city?
We both smiled playing but your creation
brought out something unexpected
when we saw a display of his volatile spite.
He kicked the railroad, destroying your city,
your perfect dream came to an end
as your smiled moved to sobbing, dear, sweet child.
Always remember though that imagination,
like elemental energy, cannot be destroyed
and no matter the destruction
we will wait for the emergence of your genius
as distinct as Da Vinci’s.
One day, you will flower again
with sweet stems outstretched,
absorbing all light, shutting out
any darkness that comes your way.
The streets are wide, everything is green,
floating in the air, a pervading sense of peace.
I stand in your villa, an open expanse
everywhere the eye can see.
I stroll through open avenues,
I stroll with you, the owner of all this beauty.
Leaving the parameters, we walk down the street
the breeze is just right as flowers fall delicately
pink and white among the lush green.
As we turn the corner, a store surfaces
with everything we need
while neighbors smile warm smiles
chatting with us in Spanish.
We head back, enter through the gates,
returning to finish with preparations
as guests wait.
You’ve worked this day like every other,
so strong, so brave, even on your wedding day.
I guide you to the veranda where we sit for a second
remembering everything that brought you to this moment.
Then, your façade fades as you admit that
life can be difficult, but I hold out my hand
help you up and send you on your way.
The sun goes down as I join the crowd.
The cool breeze touches my face
as I wait for you to take the stage.