A Tour through Washington’s Holocaust Museum
My God, I thought I’d seen the worst of it--
shorn scalps and leathered limbs left mangled in
a bed of bough, ashen stone—a fire pit.
What must have been a beech-wood ark was locked
and lit aflame, spewing smoke in great white
bluffs. The crimson dusk. Victims trapped inside,
alive. And beyond that stunning photograph,
hard artifacts, culled from slums and slaughter
grounds, now span these three museum floors.
I press forward, wading through empty pairs
of infant shoes and curly locks of hair,
mug shots, portraits of Eishishok folk ascending
up a tower, toward a light of Olam Haba.
Individuals—a single life began
as a precious mouth, puckered for her mother’s
breast, and expired when her lips turned grey and cold,
fissured, schlepped out to pile like kindling in
a killing field. Selfsame individuals.
Our crowd descends the low-lit middle floor
to the model Auschwitz Crematorium.
And you’d thought you’d seen the worst of it.
Some thousand Jews hop off the cattle car
and file glumly past the plaster guards,
descend the stairwell to a bleached-white floor
where tattered schloks and bare hides plop, where mothers
shush and nudge their kinder down another
concrete ark. Are they ghosts? Can they hear the
bustle under shower heads, the patter
of the thousand feet that fell before? The steel
hatch locks. Pellets drop. White wisps sizzle out
the vent to rising shrills and searing flesh
and wilting kinder buried under mounds.
A million pleas have rung these walls and still
you stand there, deaf and dumb-struck, looking down.
John Scott Dewey
John Scott Dewey is a husband, father, fiction writer, poet, and middle school English teacher living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He received his MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. His fiction has been recently featured in Fjords Review, The Delmarva Review, and The Wilderness House Literary Review.
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