Sunday, July 1, 2012


Tadeusz Rozewicz

Translated by

When all the women in the transport
had their heads shaved
four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
swept up
and gathered up the hair

Behind clean glass
the stiff hair lies
of those suffocated in gas chambers
there are pins and side combs
in this hair

The hair is not shot through with light
is not parted by the breeze
is not touched by any hand
or rain or lips

In huge chests
clouds of dry hair
of those suffocated
and a faded plait
a pigtail with a ribbon
pulled at school
by naughty boys.

The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948

Tadeusz Rozewicz , a holocaust survivor, is considered one of Poland's best post-war poets.

How simple and powerful this poem is!! I have rarely come across a poem that has
 touched me as closely as the one above. The horrendous clarity with which death has been depicted leaves you gasping for breath. At a first glance, the poet seems to be just a mute onlooker of the tragedy - one who has the maturity to see those bits of pins and ribbons in the dry hair of the dead bodies but not the courage to do anything about it. Slowly, the poem sinks into your system and you realize that a poem of this depth just cannot be penned down without the poet having gone though it himself. The last few tender lines leave the reader with a sense of utter sadness. The poet seems to have deliberately ended the poem at a point where the reader was just beginning to connect to it (perhaps) to deny the readers the right to prod more into the lives of the victims. Was he remorseful? Or angry?
 Loved the adjective usage  in 'clean glass' and the 'stiff hair'. The static image  conveyed in the second stanza is truly poignant.

No comments:

Post a Comment