Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Memory/Memorial, Ingrid Wendt


MEMORY/MEMORIAL
Ingrid Wendt

You whose family four years fled through jungles, whose mother,
Camp by camp, weakened, the cancer left to spread, untreated
You, whose mother fled with her children from Russian invasion
Your train bombed and bombed again as it inched its way south
You whose daughter disappeared on her everyday route home.

You to whom a government gave blankets riddled with smallpox
You whom radiation ravaged, whose fatherland won’t remember
You for whom the midnight knock on the door will echo forever
You for whom the syllables Tiananmen, Kent State, still smolder
You whose generation’s memory is short

You who cannot bear the sound of movie gunfire, cars’ backfires
You who’ve gathered together severed limbs from the wreckage
The swamp water; you, family whose mourning can never begin
You who never again will look into cameras, you who have seen
More of the face of evil than anything minds can begin to imagine

You who look for reasons where none exist, who bring to these
Elegies, images of your own, too deep for speech, wave upon
Wave they return when least you expect them, flotsam weighing
The future down. What shape do we give to horror, what form?
Silence between the paving stones of these stanzas: this is for you.

About "Memory/Memorial," Ingrid Wendt writes:
" Throughout human history, with all of its changes, one thing is constant in every country in the world: for every horror, every death, caused by other human beings – from large-scale warfare to airline crashes to the kidnapping and murder of a child coming home from school – there are those left behind who remember, who mourn, who often are isolated in their grief and in their inability to give shape to it.

This poem belongs to a 10-part poem sequence: my part of a collaborative project with a sculptor and painter in 1999. The horrors I refer to are events in the Philippines and Germany during and after the second world war, in China, Chile, Argentina, the United States during the Indian wars, and the United States today. For this poem, I created all lines (except one) of nearly equal length, to resemble paving stones of an imagined path.”

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