Poem: Death March, 1945

“There was a muddy ditch at the side of the road
where the road took a sudden turn. If I could jump —.”
Five Muselmänner abreast, the trekking dead,
skeletons on the march to some other camp.
“I came up with a plan: If it wasn’t already too late,
if the weather held, if the guard didn’t turn his head,
by the grace of dark I’d make my way to the right
and take my chances. Chances were all I had.”

“Where in that hell did you find the nerve to live?
You knew what lay ahead if you were caught.”
I thought he’d say, “No choice. Jump or be killed,”
but he wasn’t giving lessons on being brave.
“I was loved,” he said, “when I was a child.”
I tell his story every chance I get.

First published in Literary Imagination.

Chana Bloch is the author of five books of poems, most recently “Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2015.” She is co-translator of the biblical Song of Songs and Israeli poets Yehuda Amichai and Dahlia Ravikovitch. Her website is chanabloch.com.