Unless You Know

Holocaust Shoes

Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Unless you know

what it is to look

at black & white proof

at lambs led to slaughter

at herds of the lost

at ghosts of a people

And know they were yours

And know they are you

Unless you know

the deluge of tears

for strangers not touched

for family not met

for babies not kissed

for laughter not born

And know they were yours

And know they are you

Unless you know

a childhood full

of ghosts at the table

of monsters in shadows

of stories of suffering

of prayers said in vain

And know they were yours

And know they are you

Unless you know

that your people lie still

in piles of teeth

in hills of thrown shoes

in stubs of lit candles

in graves long forgotten

And know they were yours

And know they are you

Unless you know

that guilt is ingrained

that grief never ends

that hate comes in waves

that life carries pain

Do not tell me you know

what it is that I feel

unless you know they were yours

and know they are you

©2016 Rachel L. MacAulay All Rights Reserved

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5 thoughts on “Unless You Know

  1. Rachel – This is such a powerful, beautiful poem, thank you. Would you consider giving us permission to read it at our Yom HaShoah commemoration on May 1, 2016? I’d like to turn it into a responsive reading with those assembled saying together each “and know they are you.” I’m Lili Kshensky Baxter, director of the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education at the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, GA. Our commemoration was started by survivors 51 years ago and is one of the oldest in the US. We hold it annually at the Memorial to the Six Million at Greenwood Cemetery in Atlanta in partnership with Hemshech, an organization of Atlanta survivors, their families and friends.. Approx. 450-600 people attend each year, depending on the weather. This is the commemoration that all the survivors attend. Please let me know if you need more information about any of this. Your poem comes from the heart and would be perfect for our gathering.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Like

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