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Holocaust Memorial Day Poem by Charlie Jordan

Holocaust Memorial Day


Under The Same Sky

In the stillness of night,
when the moon looks like
a drawing of itself.
You may see the outline
of a gentle ghost ship.
It floats in the mist,
where sea and sky become one.
An eternal voyage
carrying souls to rest
on the shores of peace.

It has journeyed
through many places of shame:
like Auschwitz, Belsen,
Dachau, Warsaw and Babi Yar.
Collecting those lost in the Shoah.

The camps and ghettos
left millions of graves,
like scars over Europe;
where innocence was
systematically slaughtered.

Then to Cambodia:
where monks and teachers
were among those wiped out
in the Killing Fields.
Blood rained down on those fields,
where white lotus flowers
paid their respects.

Through Bosnia and Herzogovina:
where friends and neighbours
massacred each other,
and lands changed names.

To Rwanda:
where 100 days of Hell
took a million lives.
Rows of skulls keep silent watch
where people once gathered together.

The ship moves through Darfur:
where millions are displaced,
and mourn their dead
in charity tents.

There is no scale to measure suffering.
All places and people are one in their grief.
If we separate and differentiate,
then we continue to divide.

The beginning of all genocide
is to divide people
into 'us and them'
Ideologies share only their ignorance.
They manufacture superiority
from the tools of separation.

Race, gender, religion,
ethnicity, intellect...
an endless list of
supposed difference.
Excuses for the same brutality.

Continents and generations
are united by
horrific crimes
designed to segregate.

Machetes, bullets, starvation;
all are equal paths
to the cemetery.

We breathe the same terror.
Our bodies are as vulnerable.
Our spirit is the only
armour we wear.

We reflect on the past,
and try to understand
the incomprehensible.

Not wishing to absorb the evil,
we focus instead on glimpses
of light in the darkness.
The reflections of a waning moon.

Even in the despair of the camps,
Victor Frankl spoke of a few men
who gave comfort and their last bread
to help others.

Stripped of everything else,
they still chose to care.
Ordinary people in extraordinary situations,
who found courage to take a stand.

Films became global storytellers:
Sophie Choice, The Pianist,
Schindler List, Welcome to Sarajevo,
Hotel Rwanda and many more.

They reflect the best and worst in us all.
Times when you looked to the sky,
not at the bodies by your feet,
in case you recognised them.

At home you may call your bathroom
your 'sanctuary'
A preacher in Rwanda
sheltered 17 women and children
for weeks in a tiny bathroom,
a wardrobe covering the door.

His sanctuary protected them
from certain death,
and now they live for peace.
The same grotesque Hide and Seek as
in the Holocaust decades earlier.
People seeking to be invisible
to avoid disappearing for ever.

Ask yourself 'what would I do?'
As the guards chose who to condemn,
'left for life, right for death'
so we can choose to reach out.

We celebrate aid workers
who dare to witness the unspoken,
bringing help to the broken.

We transform the evil that
seeks to carve up the world,
by binding ourselves together
like a patchwork quilt.

We commemorate with statues
and peace gardens.
We designate days to remember,
and come together in defiance
of regimes that partitioned us.
We recognise our shared histories.

They tried to break us -
but they failed.
And we tell our stories
to shout loud,
We are still here.
We are not silenced by death.
We are one.'

New generations grow,
like leaves on the tree of humanity,
replacing those that fall.
We heal with bandages of
reconciliation, tribunals
and education.

It begins by opening our hearts
to resolve conflict with family
and friends first.
This ripples from our streets,
dissolving boundaries through
our cities and continents.

Quantum physics can prove
our interconnectedness:
with compassion,
we can live it.

In the stillness of night,
When the moon looks like
a drawing of itself.
Look up and pray
for the gentle ghost ship
that carried our ancestors to
the shores of peace.
It floats in the mist
where sea and sky come together.

We too are one.

© Charlie Jordan

You can also read The Gravestone- a poem written by the Birmingham Young Poet Laureate, Matt Windle.


Holocaust Memorial Day
Charlie Jordan - Poet Laureate 2007-08
Poetry Menu