Bearing Witness

A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton

At Passover, it is the custom to open the door
For the Prophet Elijah in the instance that he should
Pass by and take his place at the table. . .

Those of us who survived,
Remnants of the living and the dead,
The emaciated, the sick , the starving,
Watch from behind the barbed wire
With empty eyes and hollow souls,
As liberation approached:
Tanks, trucks, guns, uniformed soldiers;
Liberation, arriving brash, loud, cheering,
Happy to have found us alive,
As if the spirit of Elijah himself was leading
Liberation through the very gates of hell to avenge
The Great Wrong which had been done here.

Liberation crashed through the gates,
And we stood out of its way to let it pass through;
Behind us, the chimneys stood, stark, soul-less,
Stained with the black sin of this evil place.
We were all that remained,
All that were left,
And what is left of our lives sifts like ash through our fingers.
We are all that remain,
Ours not to reason why,
Only that we bear witness.

Later, much later, when we have risen from the ash
To return to the land of the living,
When we have rebuilt ruined lives,
Later, much later, when we have learned to live
With the guilt of survival,
And bring forth a new generation into a much different world
Than that to which we had belonged,
Only later, much later, when we can bear it,
Will we show you the number stamped into our flesh,
Speak of barbed wire and barbarity,
Of smoke and ash,
And of indifference, the greatest sin of all.

We are all that remain,
We are all that is left,
Ours not to reason why,
Only that we bear witness.

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