John C. Mannone
Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
The black & white photograph
metamorphoses into a window,
into a blinding dark
past to where a heap
of emaciated forms—skeletons
with mere covering of skin
—become the ghosts of conscience.
Their deep set eyes,
gaunt faces staring at me, past
their executioners. Some smile.
Though their lips seem sutured
shut, sweet words
of forgiveness slip through
the Polaroid. Those refuse to be buried
with hatred on their tongues.
Poet’s Notes: When trying to imagine one of the most horrible things I could imagine, I was prodded by some images of the Holocaust. I am haunted by some of those images. I think about hatred, why so much hatred, and about forgiveness, also unimaginable if I were there.
The structure of the poem is reminiscent of coupled trains—a subtle image that I simply thought of and not obvious in the poem. I wrote this poem; because the Holocaust is something that we should never forget.
Editor’s Note: A moving poem in both senses of the word. I am the son of a Holocaust survivor and agree that we must never forget. Forgiveness for such abject cruelty is another matter--one for God, not man, I think, as the epigraph, but not the poem itself, implies.
Art Editor's Note: The inscription on the photo is from Isaiah 49:16--Behold! I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands... For me, the boy represents my generation, now three generations removed from the horror. It is important that every generation remembers.