The Night a Sonderkommando absolved God
He won’t remember it.
Striving with all he’s got to forget,
he won’t remember this either.
How the mind wanders as he goes about the routine.
That’s how he’s come to see it now.
So he won’t remember railing at God as he sorted through gloves,
putting the ones burned through at the fingers at the back,
piling the better ones at the front.
Always sorting here. The useful from the worthless.
The healthy from the sick,
The living from the dead.
He was on the other side of the sorting,
He was still useful.
And so just part of the routine.
And yet, something in his mind remembered outrage,
Cursed at God in the language of the lager,
which is no language at all.
El Maleh Rahamim…
The God full of mercy?
Where was your mercy just now,
in that room full of agony?
Upstairs where we feed our people to the flames…
Where is Your famous mercy now?
The roar of ventilators would have swallowed the answer,
Had there been one.
With great love You have loved us….?
Like the love with which you ushered us into Birkenau?
With an outstretched arm, eh?
The thought breaks through his rant…
Where was our love?
Where was our mercy on our own?
Just now, in that room full of agony…
Where was our tenderness toward those who asked of us only hope?
We have no hope to give.
But could we not have at least been gentle?
Maybe You aren’t here with us, he mutters in Ladino,
as he pours bleach into buckets beside the door.
Maybe You aren’t…
But we are.
He won’t remember any of this.
Tonight, he will drink himself into a stupor and rail at God in his dreams.
He won’t remember absolving God of the sins of man.
But I will.
I who have folded his memories into the depth of my being,
folding decades and losses into life,
I will remember.