G. L Curtis

Poland Poems

G. L Curtis

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 The horse- backed Scythians passed. Myriad others came, rested 

and settled between the Oder and the Vistula. A Prince of Krakow 

from the house of Vasa, Sigismund, no King of conscience, drew a 

charter the tribes of Israel read. Poisoned in time that Guidon also 

attracted Hordes of Teutons to mix a Polish soup.


                          Krakow in winter.

                          City of silence and Churches.

                          Sunday and crowds shush through the snow

                          In slow deadfall.

                          The vaulted ceilings of the Basilica

                          Command the eye,

                          There the throng is immense.

                          Most stand, muffled and still.

                          An old man in coloured trousers

                          Drums his stick on the tiled floor,

                          Adjusts his haversack

                          And parts the communicants.

                          In the flat land the storks’ nests hang high

                          In empty spaces.


                          In the long hall of the Sukiennice

                          I bought a chess set for my son. 

                          I booked the Auschwitz tour

                          From the reception desk at my hotel.   

                          At this time of year I was the only guest. 

                          Breakfast for one, self-served from a variety

                          Of cereals, fruit, eggs fried, juices, bread rolls

                          All in abundance. I scanned the empty tables,

                          Laid down my tray on the white table cloth

                          Of one, center aisle, facing a window

                          And watched the reluctant snowflakes fall.



                          Deep ditches by the roadside,

                          Bright yellow Hellebore

                          In contagion waved,

                          And Plaszow we all but glimpsed

                          And passed, to the mutterings

                          Of our dragoman.

                          In the coach the video revealed

                          Graphic images of what awaited us.

                          We dismounted at the gate

                          And walked beneath that malefic sign,

                          Our voices hushed, eye contact dissolved.

                          The journey back changed many,

                           Bookmarked in memory, and later

                           Returned to in reasoned anger.


                           Warsaw then, without socks,

                           A slight oversight.

                           Breakfast at the Ibis

                           Cheese and salami

                           Earl Grey ignored.

                           Outside a limo awaited

                           With driver and interpreter

                           To take me to Treblinka.

                            A two-hour drive

                           With little conversation.

                           Mushroom pickers

                           Ignored our passing.

                           The Pines stand rigid.

                           Bleak wooden houses

                           Bore an air of loneliness

                           Like the empty nests above.



                           Isabella my guide, led pointing

                           There, there, take that!

                           My camera clicked in obedience.

                           In the forest we walked

                           On a cobbled path parallel to the unloading dock

                            Boulders ahead of us  bore

                            A Babel of towns inscribed.

                            A ghost of evil strode here

                            A white trousered Martinet,

                            The black booted Strangl, the commandant.

                            Trees hold no secrets

                             Yet the forest here seemed alive,

                             Each branch whose saddened leaves

                             Flickered and waved

                             Doomed in this limboid place,

                             Haunted always by a haunting silence.



                             In a restaurant named Tejsza

                             In a town called Tykocin

                             In the Province of Bialstock

                             We halted before returning to Warsaw.

                             I ate tentatively the Zureck soup

                             Listening to my guide nonchantly talk

                             Of the two thousand Jews murdered

                              After a Selektion in nearby Lupochovo forest.

                              Alone I sought the Synagogue

                              With its domed ceiling

                              And the prayer shawls clinging

                              To the walls like flattened ghosts.



                               Here the tourists traipse and stare,

                               Take close-up of the bimah, 

                               Ponder the mystery of the Holy Ark

                               Curtained away from the Gentile gaze.

                               In Tykocin now there are no Jews.

                               My own journey is complete.

                               As I board my flight home

                               Disordered images demand attention;

                               The flatness of the land,

                               The towering nests of Storks, 

                               The bent backs of mushroom pickers,

                               The historic Old Town,

                               The infamous Umschlagplaz, the Meeting Place,

                                Freedom fighters rising from the ground

                                Stoney determination on frozen faces.

                                And on the trams and on the streets

                                Other faces worn from piety.

G. L Curtis

My poetry has appeared in the following periodicals:

Poetry Ireland Review, New Irish Writing (David Marcus & Sunday Tribune), The Irish Times, Krino, The Stoney Thursday Book,

Honest Ulsterman, Incognito, Stroan, North Dakota Quarterly (Contemporary Irish Writing Issue), Books Ireland; An Anthology edited by Michael Hartnett; An American Anthology, Poetic Voices Without Borders edited by Robert L. Giron. Merit Award from Atlanta Review, Second Place in the Kilkenny Poetry Competition. My poetry was read on Lyric FM.Radio RTE.

Short-listed for the 2010 Francis MacManus Short Story Competition RTE1.Story broadcast on RTE Radio.

Recently completed Novella.