I. Tracing Destruction
“This train is bound for gory [sic], this train,
This train is bound for glory, this train,
This train is bound for glory nobody
rides it but the righteous and holy,
This train is bound for glory, this train”
— Woody Guthrie
Gesundheit good luck to be born Jewish in the US
after both parents fled – as a still guilty adult I grew
a Sarnatsky graybeard then prayed myself from one
decrepit synagogue to another yet another all across
Budapest to Vienna then Prague toward Berlin,
cush seats, hot food, Internet access, first class;
Gerard Sarnat takes in the green pastoral scene
where crops abound surrounding clear ponds
and churches’ beauty.
Trying to keep in mind the terrible fate of Czech
ancestors Nazis considered hybrid mongrels,
I’ll definitely look them up if we make it down
to Terezín’s death camps.
II. Starý židovský hřbitov (old Jewish cemetery)
It was a surreal hide & seek Sarnatsky hoot when I looked not down but straight
out the 3rd story window of Prague’s strangely-named Old-New Synagogue:
a thousand Gesundheit headstones stared back at me like a flock of owls
which was a popular medieval canard for Jewish creatures of darkness.
Through the translator, the young rabbi rotely replied that during
ghetto times we weren’t allowed to replace our buried people.
Space was spare so the congregation continued to add more landfill,
fourteen layers of soiled graves & still counting; the only
exceptions are rich or famous elders who bob to the top.
As legend goes, Bavaria/Moravia’s chief rebbe, Judah Loew ben Bezalel,
fashioned a magical Yiddish Superman from clay — thus his golem
guards that hallowed aching ground from defenestration to this day.
III. Ich War Just A Stenography Pool Girl
“I greet with wonderful energy the American
people…who are working to make America great.”
— Mussolini, speaking in English eighty years ago
Gesundheit half asleep during July’s Jewish Summer
Film Festival matinee opened gratis to the public.
A German Life wakes me with a baffling close-up:
elephantine wrinkles perhaps turn out to document
a tortoise sticking its snail’s neck out big time.
While the camera pans this captive menagerie,
do you see one brittle stray gray hair peeking
from the dim quivering gelatinous cinematic
glob of a fat catfish squirming on its spike, or
a stinking oyster on the half shell’s free lunch?
105 years-old and still counting, Frau Pomsel’s
cold, hypothyroid thick-skinned exquisitely
slow monotone begins to stew on how Then’s
black and white Second Weltkreig hot mess
was sooo removed from Nowaday’s sewage.
Her ex-private secretary’s once nimble thumbs
run over a handful of sepia photos of the iconic
Botticelli watercolors which Joseph Goebbels
confiscated to hang in his Propaganda Ministry
palace built to last at least Eintausend Jahren.
But certain unexpected events led to others:
Ruskie hordes overran Berlin, Der Führer
did himself in, Brunhilde’s vain boss arranged
similar cyanide for each kid before putting
a luger down the wife’s mouth then his own.
The talking head dragged from their bunker
spends a decade in Russian prison — ultimately
her Prussian sense of duty considers the score
approximately even — a shining example of
Hannah Arendt’s Eichmannoid “banality of evil.”
In retrospect, she is terribly shocked to learn
(maybe witness?) her gentle urbane chief
took imperceptible steps toward the dark side —
before hesitantly self-servingly admitting Herr
morphed into a sinister “ranting raging midget.”
At our journey’s worst, we’re all clones of humans
whose antennae conveniently prefer the sand; if
They scapegoated deviants then, surely now We need
to overcome being clogs in similar insane righteous
machines, must trumpet again today’s demagogues.
Gerard Sarnat MD’s been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY was selected for Inauguration Day pamphlet distribution. Gerry’s widely published in periodicals. He’s built/staffed homeless clinics, Stanford professor, HMO CEO. Collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burningman (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). www.gerardsarnat.com.