This is a sort of response to Mark Strand’s comment, “how can one have lunch after Auschwitz?” which was an ironic response to Adorno’s statement “how can one write poetry after Auschwitz.” The comment brought to my mind all the pleasures of eating, and all the shame, horror, and collective guilt of being human simultaneously into my mind.
Lunch after Aushwitz:
We go on, and it is there.
It is there, my lunch, defiant lunch.
fittingly, a hamburger.
(They were always rebels)
It is there, in my mouth, oh, lunch!
the soft, chewy morsel,
(delightful, though guilty.)
I can taste-no-feel-no-wrap,
wrap myself around this thing,
this cataclysm of meat-juice and ketchup,
crisp lettuce and sunny, moist tomato.
With hints of melting avocado and sharp cheese.
But it is also there.
But it is also there, when we go back.
It is not defiant, it is pitiful.
It is not solid
(which is stronger, pity or defiance?)
It is so solid, so heavy, this memory,
imagined, but still solid.
(oh God, oh God, oh God)
It is night and Schindler, Maus,
Corrie Ten-Boom, A thousand
thousand horrors imagined,
unimagined, imaginatively unimagined
gas, nakedness, starvation,
mass murder on a scale that boggles,
spread across the world
It is no longer just Germany, china, Nanking, Bosnia,
Serbia, India, Pakistan, America, Indians, and New York, and my front door.
cattle everywhere. Everywhere starving children,
beaten mothers, weeping fathers,
and smiling cannibals.
We are all there
We are all there, and here, at once.
Sure, now and again, we may casually
fall to one or the other,
(like time travelers, hopping dimensions,)
For now, we are two places at once.
We are eating a hamburger, in Auschwitz.
And the hamburger is good, so good,
and the sunset is beautiful,
even against the barbed wire, especially against it,
as through it, the sunset travels, to happy skeleton eyes
in a broken, joyous world.
There are tears, everywhere.