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The Thorough Earth


by Louis Daniel Brodsky

 

Chelmno Rain

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!
— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

No rainbows redeem morning's storm,
Whose jagged blitzkriegs
Across a sky oozing cyanic to purple
Might be the hues of brilliance at synapse
Or the universe collapsing back on itself
Through a massive black hole.
No matter, my nerves don't desert me
In loneliness no-man's-land.

Although I keep my vehicle clean,
Traces of feces- and urine-stained straw
Stick to seat covers and roof liner
Like dog hairs or lice.
Older destinies conspire with water,
Fire the moaning tires
To Wagnerian caterwauling.
My station wagon heads fate's cortège.

Driving home, I sense impending arrival
At any of ten thousand Chelmnos
Outlining my route.
But dying alone or amidst six million
Makes little difference to me.
I've always believed living by the covenant,
For the chosen anyway,
Means freedom to choose my own rainbow.

Use the player below to listen to Louis Daniel Brodsky read this poem.

 



Summary:

In this daring book of twenty-three poems, Brodsky dramatically juxtaposes seemingly disparate subjects, in two sections ("Peddler on the Road" and "The Ashkeeper's Everlasting Passion Week"). The contrast is stark and unnerving, but Brodsky manages to blend the workaday experiences and reflections of an American Jewish traveling salesman, Willy Sypher, with gruesome and poignant glimpses of the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of shattered survivors. This volume leaves the reader feeling the weight that Jewishness imposes upon those who must endure anti-Semitism.



Praise:

Louis Daniel Brodsky's Holocaust-related poems are evocative, even hallucinatory; they belong to a time that is still drowning in oceans of ashes.
— Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and author of Night


No achievement in his poetic career exceeds Louis Daniel Brodsky's creation of Willy Sypher, a Jewish traveling salesman. Juxtaposing a series of poems about Willy's career and a series of poems reflecting on the Nazi holocaust, Brodsky projects a vision of Jewish history . . . that includes in its range the comic compulsiveness of Willy's quest for sales and the unspeakable horror of the death camps. No poet at work today has a more . . . passionate regard for the infinite worth of the experience of being alive.
— Lewis P. Simpson, author of The Fable of the Southern Writer



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