We Forget

How quickly we forget the people killed,
Millions slaughtered to get a lie fulfilled.
All those Russians in the frozen gulag,
All those Chinese, dead, without epilogue,
All those hearts, for grand fantasies, stilled…

The same ideas which now make students thrilled
Inspired other men to the death camps build.
From halls at Berkeley to lecterns in Prague,
How quickly we forget!

In these classrooms, the old vision is drilled—
Ends must pardon as the means are instilled.
Lost within a philosophical fog,
Hipsters hail the killers and demagogues.
Despite the stains where irksome blood was spilled,
How quickly we forget!

 

Nazis: A Ballad

No, I never met a Nazi,
Not in all my many years;
I assumed, like ghoul or banshee,
They weren’t cause for any fear.

Since the Nazi was a dark one—
Yes, demonic to the core—
Killing millions just for doctrine—
How on earth could there be more?

Those gas chambers they created,
Those hot furnaces they built,
Which fire the anger in our blood
And sear the silent heart with guilt

Could never live again—not here!
Never in a land so free
Would such a savage reappear,
Not with our love for liberty.

But since I didn’t think the same,
Held positions you thought wrong,
You fixed on me that awful name,
Forced me in the Nazi throng!

Basic kindness had been my cause,
For virtue I’d tried to stand;
How then did you see demon claws
Stabbing from my human hands?

If I’m a Nazi, then I know
Half the country’s Nazis, too;
Yet you—so high—wear no halo—
Just what in the hell are you?

Maybe that label is your way
To suppress disparate views—
Dehumanize me so you may
Treat me like they did the Jews?

No, I’d never met a Nazi;
Now I fear they do persist;
One vicious word to condemn me,
Despite your calls to “coexist.”

 

Ron L. Hodges is an English teacher and poet who lives in Orange County, California. His works have appeared in The Road Not Taken, Ancient Paths, Calvary Cross, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal 2015 and 2016. He won the Society’s prestigious Annual Poetry Competition in 2016.

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2 Responses

  1. Damian Robin

    My wife’s father is a Jew. Many of their family were killed in Polish death camps in WWII.
    My father was a teenager when the Nazis invaded Poland. He was put in a Nazi uniform and given a gun. He was pushed into a non-combatant unit guarding a prison camp. He never said which camp but I presume it was a death camp in Poland.
    My father’s sister was raped by a Nazi soldier.
    My father’s father was killed in the Katyn murders by the Russian Communists.
    The above may be bit personal for your poems, Ron. However what’s below is of general relevant to this site of Classical Poets.
    Through becoming more aware of the above incidents and re-reading ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and other Modern poems attendant on posts on this site, I realise a lot of my liking Modern Art, including its verse, was due to this destructive family history and the sexual abuse I received from elsewhere during childhood. I sublimated negative feelings against unnamed or unapproachable abusers into liking destructive art. Revisiting repeated disruption in that art.
    This must apply to twentieth century people more generally as WWI was so cataclysmic and the personal pain from home country authority as well as enemy ‘normal’ military suffering and abuse was pervasive.
    I usually understood this as an academic and historical reality. It has now thumped me in the body as I have begun to follow and respond to some posts on this site and contacting someone who posts on the site.
    Abuse of all kinds can sicken our minds and make us start to enjoy destructive art.
    This is often given as a justification of modern art, that it is reflecting life, and life is just mad and incomprehensibly bad. Does this mean we leave it like that? That we observe the moral and barbaric side of humanity surface and let it be? As poets we can make better art, craft indestructible beauty. And it will run off on life and life will rub against it and change.
Thank you to the contributors.
    Link to the posting on Classical Poets dot Org mentioned above
    http://classicalpoets.org/on-robert-frosts-the-pasture-and-william-carlos-williams-the-red-wheelbarrow/
    and an article about political name calling relevant to your poem above, Ron,
    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2214297-the-danger-of-political-labels/

    Reply

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