Baruch, the Baker – a poem … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt



BARUCH, THE BAKER

Your heart is smarter, my Baruch,
then your head,
which is smart indeed –
and your hands and gnarly fingers
are smarter still.
They fashion bread from
cream-colored flours,
silky to the touch.
Kneading the dough
patiently, patiently
letting it rise
while I sleep –
safe, in my bed.

Up at six a.m. we walk sleepily
down a lavender-gray street,
an apricot sun peeking at us
and, rising higher in the sky,
it seemingly follows us to you.

Cheer-filled arrival with greetings
and smiles from dear Baruch and
warm sugar smells, yeasty scents
and the sight of golden loaves,
some voluptuous rounds and
others, sturdy rectangulars.
You have baked cinnamon rolls,
a child’s delight, pies and
sticky buns too…and cookies!

“We’ll take a French bread” my Mom says
pointing to a crispy brown baguette.
“And a raisin bread.”
She adds …
“We’ll need that sliced.”

I watch your hands flit gracefully
like butterflies in a green valley
stopping here and then there
to pull fragrant loaves from display
and slicing them, neatly packaging,
then reaching down over the counter
you hand me a little bag of rugelach.

As I look up, reaching for your gift
I stop breathing, arrested by
a wisp of blue on your forearm.
I am studious, a reader, dear Baruch,
I know what that tattoo means …
Looking down, with a whisper I choke
“Thank you, Baruch!”
swallowing that lump of sadness,
trying not to show my tears.
What right have I to tears?
But then you, dear Baruch, come
bounding round the counter
with warm hugs and soft tissues,
as though I was the one hurt.
From that day forever more,
I saw you only in long sleeves.

At lunchtime, I demanded –
“Mom, tell me about Baruch.”
And she does.
I am pensive over our meal,
canned marinara and slices of
of your baguette.
Dear Baruch, with each salty bite
I eat your tears and
the blood of your daughter.
Nights she stares at me from that
sepia photo by your register.

Baruch, did she, like me, assume
a grown-up life
of school and jobs,
marriage and children?
And you! You must have assumed
the tender comfort of
her love in your old age.
Do you hold the vision of her
young and happy in your
brave, kindly old heart?
Does your ear still play back
her childish laughter,
the sound of her voice
begging for a story?
Do your warm brown eyes still hold
her smile in remembrance?
When you see little girls like me,
does your anguish grow?

Dear Baruch, our dear Baruch
how will you set your child free
from that faraway land and
cold, unmarked mass grave?

© 2008, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of a holocaust survivor displaying his arm tattoo courtesy of Frankie Fouganthin under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

 “The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!’

“When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.”
Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems

Some folks say they don’t believe there was a Jewish Holocaust and some young people are unaware that it happened. Some folks say “never again,” but there are 24 or more genocides, including Gaza, that are happening even as I write this post, even as you read it. Some Americans fail to recognize or don’t want to acknowledge that this country was partly built on a foundation of death. Even the Bible is weighted with stories of genocide.

Tell us about your own pain, perceptions and perhaps resolutions born of this knowledge. Write of your awakening to this reality as a child, your adult perceptions or, perhaps depending on where you live, your first-hand experience.

All poetry shared by you will be posted here next Tuesday. The deadline is Monday evening, May 22 at 8 pm PDT.  If you share a poem for the first time, please send a brief bio and photo to thepoetbyday@gmail.com.  These will be used to introduce new participants to readers. Thank you!

Chief Settle (public domain photograph)

“My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain…There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.”  Chief Seattle, The Chief Seattle’s Speech


ABOUT

I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a poem written by the child, Pavel Freidman (short bio included), before he was murdered at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp


Regular Sunday Announcements are in process and will post later today, but yesterday was International Holocaust Rememberence Day. I share the poem of a child imprisoned and murdered at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. We remember it with the hope that there will never be another genocide and that children of every race, country and creed will be allowed to fulfill their promise, to grow up, to grow old and to die in God’s time. Even as we do, there are genocides currently happening around the world, ten of which are full-blown. Ironically, “prominent scholars of the international law crime of genocide and human rights authorities take the position that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people could constitute a form of genocide.” Details HEREMay all sentient beings find peace.


I Never Saw Another Butterfly

by Pavel Freidman

The last, the very last,

So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.

Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing

against a white stone. . . .

Such, such a yellow

Is carried lightly ‘way up high.

It went away I’m sure because it wished to

kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,

Penned up inside this ghetto.

But I have found what I love here.

The dandelions call to me

And the white chestnut branches in the court.

Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.

Butterflies don’t live in here,

in the ghetto.


Butterfly-cover-largePavel Friedman was born in Prague on January 7, 1921. He was deported to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp on April 26, 1942 and later to Auschwitz, where he died on September 29, 1944.  The poem was found when Theresienstadt was liberated in February 1945.

Pevel’s poem is included in and lends its name to the title of a collection of poems and artwork by the children and youth of Theresiesnstadt* and published by Hana Volavková and Jiří Weil in 1959.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944

* Theresienstadt was the German name for Terezín, a Czech fortress. “After the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and following the occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939, with the existing prisons gradually filled up as a result of the Nazi terror, the Prague Gestapo Police prison was set up in the Small Fortress  in 1940. The first inmates arrived on June 14, 1940. By the end of the war 32,000 prisoners of whom 5,000 were women passed through the Small Fortress. These were primarily Czechs, later other nationals, for instance citizens of the former Soviet Union, Poles, Germans and Yugoslavs. Most of the prisoners were arrested for various acts of resistance to the Nazi regime, they were later sent to the extermination camps like Mauthausen in many cases; it was also destiny of family members and supporters of the Reinhard Heydrich assassins. The Jewish Ghetto was created in 1941.” Wikipedia


A response worth sharing from bogpan (a.k.a. Bozhidar Pangelov – (bogpan – блог за авторска поезия) “Great pain for my heart. The Bulgarian people have saved 50,000 of their Jewish citizens. But not all. Never more genocide!”

Amen to that.

Jordan

Written by: Bozhidar Pangelov © 2018, All rights reserved

It flows, the river flows
and spills…
I won’t, I won’t
enter,
girl,
with hair of sea.
I won’t
enter,
girl,
with a face of moons.
Today the green people
enter there
and raise
their hands
heavy.
My heart is
carved into
sand.
Sand.

Bury it.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

HONORING THE TRUE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

Eel River, Humboldt County, California

Eel River, Humboldt County, California

The Wiyot lived in the Humboldt Bay area of Northern California and they live in my dreams. For about a year-and-half we made our home in Humboldt County, an area about 200 miles north of San Francisco on the far North Coast. It’s a place dense with redwood forests, wild rivers, and creeks that run dry in the summer and overflow in the winter. If you live in a rural area or grew up in one, you might take such things for granted. Having lived in paved-over cities all my life, they seemed magical to me.

Our four acres were rich with sequoia, madrone, oak, and twenty-eight fruit trees. Blue jays flew in to feed in the morning. Quail families visited at night. They marched down our drive in orderly formation. Hawks and hummingbirds put on air shows. Rosemary thrived unattended. There was a beautiful lush 100-year-old rosebush. There were wild roses too. They gifted us hips for homemade cough syrup.

Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom

The colors there were brilliant and varied: smog-free blue skies (you could see the stars at night!), rich brown earth, a population of purple iris in a grove of California bay laurel, orange cosmos and red dahlias, yellow scotch broom lining our creek-side in the company of cascading Japanese quince. The Japanese quince provided ample housing for Rufus hummingbirds. Nearby, Queen Ann’s lace stood unbent by the wind. When it went to seed we collected the seeds for cooking. They have a taste somewhere between carrot and caraway.

The spread of blackberry bushes was both wonder and wealth. They seemed never to run out of fruit. I gathered some almost every morning for breakfast and every morning I thought of the women in buckskins who preceded me more than a century ago. Perhaps there was a mother who stood on this spot, picking blackberries for her son too.

I think the peace, quiet and simplicity of that place made it easy to imagine the first peoples as they might have lived there in other times. I could see them tending fires, boiling and drying acorns and then grinding them for flour, bathing in the river, raising their children, gathering wood, hunting and enjoying sacred ceremony. I knew the very same ancient sequoia that watched over us had watched over them.

Humboldt Bay near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands

Qual-a-wa-loo (Humboldt Bay) near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands, The 1860 Wiyot Massacre happened on Indian Island

Finally, I did some research. I was sad but not surprised to find that the area was once inhabited by an indigenous people –  the Wiyot people – who were decimated in a genocide ~

Wiyot Mother and Child

Wiyot Mother and Child

“Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the “good citizens of the area”. Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought differently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it “cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children” — then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.” MORE [Wiyot Tribal Council Page]

Note: Originally written in 2012, I’ve posted this today as a an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12. More than 40 US jurisdictions celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the majority of these have replaced Columbus Day with this holiday, but some jurisdictions celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In addition to reading here, please also treat yourself to Michael Watson’s post Silence, Story, and Healing, a short and thoughtful piece.

© 2012, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ Eel River by Jan Kronsell and released into the worldwide public domain; Scotch Broom by Danny S. – 001 under CC BY-SA 3.0; Humboldt Bay near Eureka by Tony via Wikipedia and Licensed under CC A 2.0 Generic; Wiyot Mother and Child, Humboldt State University

WRITING PROMPT

Perhaps you too grew up in a time and place where the history books taught a one-sided view of the land you live on and the people who originated there. Perhaps, like me, you had to get out of school and meet new people, read books that weren’t sanctioned by academic authority and do your own research to learn about the devastation that was  and is rained upon indigenous people all over the world … the violence, the slavery and the genocide. Perhaps you are a descendent of the original people who suffered so and know the truth from the stories of your elders. Perhaps your roots are in the nations of empire and you are saddened that they perpetrated or were complicit in such unimaginable injustice.

We can’t change what happened in the past but as writers and poets we can make sure that lies aren’t propagated and that the truth is told and shared. Write a poem, short story, essay or article that illustrates some aspect of colonialism, racial bias and stereotype, or the modern complications of colonial history.