Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a contemplative monk who spent 27 years inside the walls of a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Only in his last year was he permitted to travel at any length. Even though he was never at Auschwitz this poetry places him there so as to let a generous sensitivity and tenacious faith like his respond to this horrendous calamity. Merton stands for all those who, in the light of Auschwitz, ask the question: where was God, and in so asking expose their belief to severe trial. Merton's struggle with this question was lived out elsewhere. Only the location has been shifted in the poetry that follows.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Scrap of Paper ~

In glossy black boots
The Sturmfuehrer stood
In front of the starving men
Eating a wurst wrapped in paper.

After he had finished he crumpled it
Then let it fall.
Thomas was ordered to pick it up
With his teeth
And deposit it in the trash.

He recognized what it was,
A page of the Torah,
And slid it into his sleeve.

That evening after dark
He passed it to an old man
And after midnight
Saw a group of them
Huddled at the far end of the block
Listening to him read it
Over and over again.

When daylight came
They were chased out
To a mound before an open pit.
Lining themselves at the edge
The Sturmfuehrer
Had them turn to him
And he shot them in the forehead,
One after the other.

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