In One, Out the Other

The first time I watched the film Schindler's List,
I was in ninth grade.
It was rated "R."
My mom signed a permission slip.
The librarian made a copy of the tape for me.
Even at 15, I knew my mother wouldn't want to see it.
I was careful to watch before she came home.

The first time I saw the movie,
I was a junior in college.
It was assigned for Sociology of Film.
I was taking a history class on twentieth century Europe.
There was nothing better to do
and it seemed to fir,
so I watched with the girls next door.

There's an old saying,
"In one ear and out the other."
Is it possible for something to go in one eye and out the other?

At fifteen, watching along,
the images flashed before my eyes.
I shed no tears.
I felt no horror.
Presented with the jagged pieces of a bygone era,
I could barely bring myself to shrug.

Six years later,
seated comfortably between two friends,
I saw
and wanted nothing more than to un-see.

I saw the cattle cars full of human cargo.
I saw the stripping:
of their candleholders, toothbrushes, eyeglasses, and spoons
of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters
of their hats, coats, shirts, pants, socks, and shoes

of their dignity...

of their lives.

I saw the people who stood on the train platforms
and those who operated the gas chambers,
the ones who made "selections"
and those who tossed live babies into pits,
too many of whom attended church,
sang hymns,
and offered prayers in the name of Jesus.

And I saw the broken man, Oskar,
who knew he hadn't done enough...
that he could never do enough.

I saw and wept and wondered
the questions we all have.

Who made the heart capable of such evil?
What more could one mad expect of himself?
Where was God keeping Moses and Elijah?
When would justice flow down like water?
Why was there silence from heaven?

How how how could God let us be
when it's so obvious we don't know how to get it right?

And I wondered
would I have been capable of the same.
Am I capable of the same?
Could I have made the selections that sent people to death of life?
Would there have been Jews hiding in my basement?

Unanswerable questions
that could not be quenched with tears.
At least for that night, my hope died
because I finally saw.

-I wrote this poem for a class on Spiritual Autobiography. We had a public reading tonight that was sparsely attended, but powerful all the same. If you're wondering where Jesus is in all of this, I have to say that the night I really saw this aw(e)ful movie, Rebecca was Jesus to me. There was no comfort in knowing that nothing had stopped the bureaucracy that slaughtered over 6 million people, but Rebecca lay with me and let me cry and didn't try to pretend it was all okay. I think this particular poem ends appropriately, but there's probably another one in my somewhere about what happened to my hope after that night.
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