I Have Seen Terezín by Andrena Zawinski

czech licensed pwam

I Have Seen Terezín
by Andrena Zawinski

(from Frankie’s on the Divisadero in San Francisco
after Friedl Dicker-Brandeis’“Untitled, 1944, Terezin”)

The sign at Frankie’s Bohemian Cafe reads 6,303 miles to Prague.
Inside a shadowed corner I have brambory, rough bread, Pilsner—
the same way I did in the sleepy Bohemian border town of Terezín.
I still hear from here mothers’ voices, appoggiaturas on the wind.

Inside a shadowed corner I have brambory, rough bread, Pilsner,
think of children painting sprawling meadows, their butterfly skies,
and hear from here mothers’ voices, appoggiaturas on the wind.
Now we study this, house fronts tattooed in SS brass plaques,

children painting flowers sprawling meadows, their butterfly skies,
feather quilts airing our sins across the opened window ledges.
Now we study this, house fronts tattooed in SS brass plaques,
the Camp’s mass graves’ numbered markers bedding down in roses,

feather quilts airing our sins across the opened window ledges,
gallows wreathed in candles, slips of prayers tucked under stones,
the Camp’s mass graves’ numbered markers bedding down in roses
for ones hung at the Gate of Death. I walked tunnels from the cells

to gallows wreathed in candles, slipped prayers beneath stones,
jumping at my own shadow darting by me, at how horror twists it,
at those hung at the Gate of Death. I walked tunnels from the cells,
taunted by its dark angels’ voices, quilts and roses, butterfly skies,

jumping at my own shadow darting by me, at how horror twists it,
the way I squared walkways in the sleepy border town of Terezín—
taunted by its dark angels’ voices, quilts and roses, butterfly skies,
while a sign at Frankie’s Bohemian Cafe reads 6,303 miles to Prague.

This poem appears in the author’s collection Something About (Blue Light Press San Francisco).

PHOTO: Entrance to WWII Theresienstadt concentration camp near Terezín, Czechoslovakia, marked “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work sets you free). Photo by Pwan, used by permission. 

Children_playing_at_Theresienstadt_during_the_Red_Cross_visit

NOTE: Theresienstadt was a concentration camp and ghetto established by the Nazi SS during World War II in the fortress town Terezín, located in a German-occupied region of Czechoslovakia. Czech Jews arrived in November 1941; the first German and Austrian Jews arrived in June 1942; Dutch and Danish Jews arrived in 1943. About 33,000 people died at Theresienstadt, mostly from malnutrition and disease. More than 88,000 people were held at the site for months or years before being deported to extermination camps and other killing sites. The Terezín Ghetto Museum is visited by 250,000 people each year.

PHOTO: On 23 June 1944, Red Cross delegate Maurice Rossel was taken on a choreogaphed visit of Theresienstadt concentration camp. He took this photograph during his visit. Most of the children were murdered at Auschwitz in the fall of 1944.

zawinski 1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s latest poetry collection is Landings from Kelsay Books. Others are Something About from Blue Light Press, a PEN Oakland Award and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press, a Kenneth Patchen Prize. She also has several smaller collections. Her poems have received accolades for free verse, form, lyricism, spirituality, and social concern, and have appeared in Aolean Harp, ArtemisBlue Collar Review, Bryant Literary Review, CaesuraPlainsongs, Progressive Magazine, Rattle, and others with work online at Women’s Voices for Change, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Veteran teacher of writing and feminist activist, she founded and runs the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and is longstanding Features Editor at Poetry Magazine.

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