A Mantra for Auschwitz

The beauty of irrelevance

of me with shaved head

and wearing a Kippah

making my passage as a Jew

through “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

The beauty of the erased

years from 1939 to 1945, in a poster

at the entrance where we line up to be grouped,

marked in red with the same brilliance

as my nail polish.

The beauty of the broken

handle of a suitcase belonging

to a survivor, that stays back

in the camp which still overflows

with new arrivals like me every day.

The beauty of the distended

white skirt of our guide

who stuffs our sad hunger with statistics,

leaning against the bluster of a brick building

with Goebbels’ words at its entrance.

The beauty of fading

stripes on the shirts of prisoners in the photographs lined along

the hall way, similar to the strips on my shirt,

which feels as long and stretched as the prayer

shawls hung in the first room we cram into.

The beauty of the dark

inside of a large glass container

in the second building,

holding dense human ash like mud,

against which a boy rubs his little white face.

The beauty of the smudged

words on a letter in the third building,

never sent, but read numerous times

by strangers like me, who try so hard

to decipher “love” scribbled in Yiddish.

The beauty of an absent

stare, pinned on a pile

of eyeglasses in the fourth building,

which resembles a woman with lush black hair

and piercing eyes.

The beauty of a toothless

comb, holding to brown bent teeth

of other combs around it on which has fallen

the shadow of a woman’s hair.

The beauty of a few fallen

crutches, which together,

make a track that leads my steps

to a mound of worn-out shoes

as tall as me.

The beauty of the threadbare

fabric of a little girl clothing in the fifth building,

which recalls the barbed wire fabric of the camp,

with small roses and a butterfly

that still resist being snipped and unwinged.

The beauty of the ruthlessness

of a smooth and blazing blue sky

gnawing my eyes as we exit

the building and head towards the courtyard

to visit the grainy and grey “Wall of Death.”

The beauty of emptiness

hidden within cement walls

of solitary cells in the basement where we go next,

and where we are not allowed to capture

in snapshots to take home with us.

The beauty of abrasive

ovens in the last building, now cold

as the bulging blue eyes of a doll

with broken torso, whom I say goodbye to

before heading to Birkenau.

The beauty of dryness

of the still-green blades

of July’s grass under our stump

in the vastness of Birkenau, advancing

along the incessant rail tracks.

The beauty of the startled

sunlight which scurries in

like mice towards the bunk beds

where hay is lying today,

as we enter the barracks.

The beauty of a cluttered

pit of concrete, rubble, and dust

with deep and twisted iron roots,

going down to the heart of the earth

in the place of sky-high columns of smoke.

The beauty of my brittle

nails under the red polish scratching barbed wire,

that matches the brittleness

of a heart made by stones

on a symbolic grave for grave-less folks.

The beauty of me, an Iranian atheist,

who, following an Islamic tradition,

while reading the Koranic verse,

knocks on the grave with one of the stones

to present Jewish souls as witnesses before Allah.

The beauty of my irrelevancy—

my shaved head, my Kippah,

my stripped shirt, my brittle nails,

my brilliantly red nail polish;

the beauty of irrelevance

of a so called Muslim’s Exodus .

Nilofar Shidmehr
July 22, 2012

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