Poetry Porch: Forgiveness


The Young Germans 
by Charles Fishman

            for Sigrid Weimann

Already at birth they seek forgiveness
a field of thorns flourishes 
beneath their hearts.

In a country of ghosts their first words 
are silence they totter into darkness 
as they walk

Their hometowns are absence and amnesia 
which they wake from the way a black-out wakens 
from the fuse box

And their childhoodswhat breathes in them 
but shame and anguish? The dark star of memory 
rises in their blood

Who, then, has the power to save them?
Not the survivor of Belsen from Bensonhurst
who bakes for her young Aryan

Not the Ethiopian émigré in Ashkelon
who hums a tune more ancient than Rome
or Thebes.

Who can release them but the Jews Grandfather 
killed? Who can heal if not the Jews
only oblivion saved?

Copyright © 1995 by Charles Fishman. Used with permission of Charles Fishman.

This poem first appeared in European Judaism (1996).