The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem
For Hana Amichai
Inside a domed room photos of children's faces
turn in a candlelit dark as recorded voices
recite their names, ages and nationality.
"Ah, such beautiful faces," a woman sighs.
Yes, but faces without the prestige
of the future or the tolerance of the past.
Not one asks: Why is this happening to me?
They stare at the camera as if it were a commandment:
thou shall not bear false witness...
Why would anyone want to take their photo,
remember what they no longer looked like?
There's no delusion in their eyes,
no recognition or longing, only
the flatness of hours without minutes,
hunger without appetite.
They understand they are no longer children,
that death is redundant, and mundane.
Expected, like a long-awaited guest
who arrives bearing the gift
of greater anticipation. Their eyes
are heavy--fear perhaps,
or the unforgiving weight
Did they understand why they were so hated?
Wonder why they were Jews?
Did God hear their prayers and write
something in one of his glistening books?
Were they of too little consequence?
What did they think of God, finally?
Dante cannot help us.
Imagination is the first child in line.
They cannot help us.
It is wrong to ask them.
Philosophy cannot help us,
nor wisdom, or time.
We look at their faces and their faces look at us.
They know we are pious.
They know we grieve.
But they also know we will soon leave.
We are not their mothers and fathers,
who also could not save them.