BALKAN MOURNING

 

 

     The poem that follows addresses recurring questions all too familiar to a contemporary audience.  For we have still not escaped the occurrence of mass murder in our midst.  Indeed the industrialization of genocide is a unique modern adaptation of the ancient venting of violence and the pitiless killing of captured innocents.  The setting of this poem is in a Balkan land but it could be anywhere and indeed any time.   At Babi Yar, a ravine outside the Ukrainian city of Kiev, over 30,000 Jewish men, women and children were forced to undress and stand over deep pits where they were machine gunned in their turn.  This over the course of just 3 days.  Hecuba, the Queen of Troy and wife of King Priam is described in Homer’s ILIAD.  After the fall of Troy, most of her family was killed by the Greek victors.  Her agony is the subject of Euripides’ play that bears her name.  In that play she begs for the life of her daughter, Polyxena, but she is already doomed and Hecuba pleads to no avail. 

     As so many survivors of Hitler’s Holocaust have asked, how can God silently countenance such unjust horror without intervening?  Where is dignity and mercy in the face of such indifferent cruelty?  Sadly, such questions are still to be answered.

 

BALKAN MOURNING

( In the fire of the harshest hell on Earth it is the

preservation of the human spirit that ennobles the hour }

 

 

At the edge of a wooded ravine

The mother soothes her child

Kisses her

Holds her small hand and gently strokes her hair

She shields her eyes from the blood stained trench

Where they are next to fall

And looking upward she implores God’s deliverance

A sorrowful prayer that drifts out into the morning light

It is the ancient human cry

In the silence of the sun

It is Babi Yar

It is Hecuba

After the Greeks have won

 

INDEX