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Pigtail -- Tadeusz Ròzewicz

Guest poem sent in by Hemant R. Mohapatra
(Poem #1034) Pigtail
 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.
-- Tadeusz Ròzewicz
       The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948
        (translated by Adam Czerniawski)

I have rarely come across a poem that has touched me as closely as the one
above. The horrendous vividity in 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 him/herself. 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?  I would have
called it a deliciously bitter end had it not been such a respectfully sad
one!! Sometimes I wish we had a way of giving some poems a standing
applause on emails.

Hemant

Links:
  Some more of Rozewicz's poems:
    [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/Paris/6170/poetfeat2.html

  The current theme: Unusual perspectives on war
    Poem #1033, Bret Harte, "What the Bullet Sang"

Biography:

Tadeusz Rozewicz (1921- ) is a well-respected Polish poet, playwright, and
novelist known for his "naked poetry." Rozewicz served in World War II
with the underground Home Army. Following the war, he became an
influential poet, much revered by later generations of Polish writers. His
work has focused on several major themes, including the question of
whether art is even possible after the horrors of World War II.

27 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

suresh said...

Martin Julian DeMello writes:

> Guest poem sent in by Hemant R. Mohapatra
> 'Pigtail'
[....]
> called it a deliciously bitter end had it not been such a respectfully sad
> one!! Sometimes I wish we had a way of giving some poems a standing
> applause on emails.

You got it from my side. In fact if I was not at my office, I'd be
clapping as hard as I could (or maybe crying, I don't know). I haven't
seen any poem in the past several months to a year which has made me
feel so melancholy.

Thank you. Thanks a lot for this poem.

--srs

Aravind Inumpudi said...

Hi Hemant,
I remember reading this poem in a collection - "Holocaust Poetry" at
school. The book towards the end leaves you not daring to empathise
anymore; the pain is too intense. Of all the poems in the collection, this
had remained a personal favorite.
Aravind

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