This is a site with a cycle of three poems
by Michael Benedikt about World War II &
its impact on "civilians." Cycle is called 'The Takings.' It's from a work-in-progress called TRANSITIONS.
Here so far, part I of this cycle: "The Kapos"
Click for Writer's Bio.
OR, ARNOLDT AND LILI MORGENSTERN
[Nazi Germany, 1938]
Kapo: A Jewish prisoner in one of the many infamous
concentration camps who was, for one reason or another,
given "special privileges"--including at first (before the
nature of those camps became clear to outsiders), the
recruiting of new prisoners (or "guests" as they were called),
on a temporary, so-called "trial basis."
--Dictionary of World War II
And so the Kapos came to our little town, let out around dinnertime
With some soldiers, from that crazy Nazi camp; & they rounded us up,
promising that we two could be Kapos, too,
In those first "Gray Announcements" which they'd printed to hand out
--If we rendered ourselves up to join them, for even just a
"trial visit," & "At Once, Early, and Without a Fight"
--For otherwise, just as sure as we were born, they said,
late some night, maybe even close to midnight,
The muffled roar of convoy trucks would come
When we weren't dressed, & it was inconvenient
--& My husband, Arnoldt, then took me aside, & told me in a
that yes, surrendering for a "trial visit" was a damn sight
Better, than being awoken late one night, looking into a muzzle
or a gunsight; or worse yet, maybe being hunted down
when we had both just bedded down
--Hiding terrified, in our basement behind the wine-rack, in that old broken bathtub
Which for so many months now I'd thanked Jahweh yes Jahweh Himself,
that no one else had yet found!
No, not even our next-door neighbor's children who--when we two
weren't around; & they came back from their monastery school,
or their butterfly hunt that fled through the fields,
so close to that camp, every afternoon, every single afternoon--
Used to make a "game" of opening our cellar-door, & then searching
thereabouts with their flashlights, at twilights
With their puppy dog, "Fritze"; & sometimes, too, with our other
dear neighbors' dogs & children...
...And so, suddenly, there was a commotion of motorcycles stopping,
& Arnoldt & I laughing, with that poor old broken bathtub
far, ever so far, far behind us
& We two (in two Kapo sidecars) carrying two light packages
Containing two toothbrushes, two combs, & two brand new sets of
one hairbrush & also one fine nightgown
Plus one bottle of good Moselle we'd gaily taken, all for our overnight stay
"Experimentally," as we planned it (for truly it just had to be experimentally),
For just as Arnoldt said, to get us to come to Camp that way, & to
give up & go there so easily
Had been given to us so generously...
It was clear that they just had to agree!
--And besides that, there were two gift packets of cigarettes which,
as those two Kapo drivers themselves pointed out,
--& Yet it's also true that just as soon as Arnoldt had marched
to get that me that very first night, with that very first copy
He said they'd said, of the "Gray Announcements" to be given out
(With Arnoldt holding it in his teeth, & with Arnoldt also holding up
both arms as if in surrender before me, as if for a joke & with
a loud laugh
Then pointing with one hand through a window downstairs to two
other figures crouching beside two racing bicycles--
Two more Nazi solders who had suddenly appeared & who were taking a
--Oh yes it's also true that even that very first bright sudden
flashbulb hurt my eyes
Like a burning gas explosion; why oh yes why for the sake of Jahweh,
why did those Kapos have to do all that then, for it wasn't yet quite midnight
--Yes it was just after dinnertime I remember & yet our light
was already out.
'The Kapos' was first published in Israel in Tel-Aviv Review
© Michael Benedikt l987. In the US, 'The Kapos' was published
in Partisan Review © Michael Benedikt l997. This
Webversion © Michael Benedikt l999.
'The Kapos' is from a manuscript-in-progress entitled TRANSITIONS
FORTHCOMING AT THIS
SITE IN LATER '00
PARTS 2 & 3 OF THIS THREE-PART CYCLE OF POETRY
('THE TAKINGS') FROM TRANSITIONS:
'Stirrings In The Silence' (Occupied France, 1944)
& 'Lovers Alone In A Room; or, Beginning The Language Again' (USA, 1999)
Brief Benedikt Biography
Michael Benedikt's work is represented at many sites on World Wide Web . His earlier publications include five collections of poems, represented in numerous anthologies of US poetry. His most recent volume in print media is The Badminton at Great Barrington; Or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo--a poem-sequence about the joys and sorrows of love (University of Pittsburgh Press, l980). His collections with Wesleyan U. Press are Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, 1971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Books he has edited include a 600-page anthology of global prose poetry, with critical Introduction & Commentary: The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and the 400-page The Poetry of Surrealism (Little, Brown & Co., l974), which also includes many prose poems. A former Poetry Editor of The Paris Review, his editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (Norton, l990). His literary criticism has appeared in Poetry and The American Book Review. He has taught as Visiting Prof. of English & Creative Writing at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire, and Vassar College/s; and at Boston University. Benedikt lives in Manhattan, New York City.
E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT BENEDIKT & HIS WEBSITES
'The Compleat Michael Benedikt: Poet Laureate of the Net'
SOME OTHER BENEDIKT SITES & MINI-SITES
Robert Desnos: A Unique French Surrealist Poet Intro. to the poet/playwright who died in l945 at the Terezine death-camp in Czechoslovakia. With major Desnos poems, incl. 'Voice of Robert Desnos'
Theatre, Film, & TV Poems--& Info. on Four 20th Cent. Play Anthologies Includes descriptions of French, Spanish, Post-War German & US Collections Ed. by MB & titles of plays & names of 50 Modern Playwrights represented
Prose Poems: Brief Prose Poems Includes Interview on Prose Poetry from Poetry Society of America Newsletter & Essay on 'Future of Prose Poem'
Prose Poems & Microfictions With medium-sized prose poems and a review from London Times Literary Supplement of NIGHT CRIES, Benedikt's fourth poetry book & the book from which the prose poems at both prose poem sites have been selected
Poems from Boston & Cambridge Includes several other narrative poems from TRANSITIONS
Mini-Site with poem from TRANSITIONS about growing up siblingless: 'Of An Only Child's World'
with poem from TRANSITIONS in praise of Independent Living
for people of all ages:
'Of Living Alone--But Not Brooding Too Much About It'
Thesaurus And Other New Verse With poems from a
mss.-in-progress entitled OF:
Includes NEW page of Three Poems In Praise of Peace
Poetry Books--The Body and Sky With selections from
Benedikt's first two books of poetry,
THE BODY & SKY. Poems appear in l998/99/00 updates. Includes--for college students writing term papers, theses, etc.--a Thematic Index of topics in both books.
& Last But Not Least
with poem from OF: about a brief moment of theatrical bliss
under the repressive Soviet regime:
'Of The Taganka Troupe in Soviet Russia, l957.'
Note: Taganka barely survived War Years & Cold War Years--& flourishes afresh in Moscow
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[This site Established 1999]