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Falling from Heaven: Holocaust Poems of a Jew and a Gentile

by Louis Daniel Brodsky and William Heyen


(by William Heyen)

Ivan Ivanovitch Kotov, short of speech,
clarity drifting away to mindlessness —
Kotov of stutter and suddenly empty eyes —
only Kotov, in all Russia, of all those locked inside,
survived the dushegubka,
the murder wagon, the gas van. Only Kotov,

pushed with his new bride
into the seatless seven-ton gray truck,
stood on that grated floor, and lived. Only Kotov,
pressed together with fifty others, would wake
in the ditch of dead, half buried, and crawl away.
He’d smelled gas, torn off one sleeve,
soaked it in his urine, covered nose and mouth,

lost consciousness, and lived, waking
in a pit of bodies somewhere outside of Krasnodar.
His wife? — he could not find her.
Except for the dead, he was alone. . . .
He stood up, staggered and groped through fields
back to the city, where he hid until the end.

Only Kotov, saved by his own brain and urine, woke
from that wedding in the death van,
in Russia, in the time of that German invention,
the windowless seven-ton gray dushegubka.



Presenting fifty startling poems — alternating between its authors, a Jew and a Christian — this volume possesses a haunting poignancy unlike any other book of Holocaust poetry.



It has probably been thirty years since a book of poems has affected me the way this one has. . . . Heyen and Brodsky tear the reader from abstractions to images which promise to sear, and to stay.
Four Quarters

Falling from Heaven is a painful and poignant offering which reminds me that none of us has survived the Holocaust without scars. Yet, the distinguished work of the poets gives us the hope . . . we can avoid a recurrence of such horror.
— Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

A breakthrough book in Holocaust literature which will have enduring impact.
— Robert A. Cohn, editor in chief emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light

To read Charles Adès Fishman's interview of Mr. Brodsky, about his Holocaust writing, please click here.

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