History’s Fingers – A Poem

My great grand-parents were lost to the camps

What of that


My grand-mother a German-Jewish refugee

What does that mean


Although I try to deny

This


I cannot argue

The symmetry

The orphan gene

That births its children

With so much hunger

That they cannot feed

For eating


A grandmother so displaced

Full of rage and shame

Against races from which

She too was made

She spent a whole life

Looking away

From tomorrow


My father so craved

A mother he never grew

The maturity to use

More than one tool

Or the courage

To give his many issues

A parent


The cracks still reach

Gaunt fingers

Between families

Generations in the unmaking

While alive

My parents may just as well

Have died


A father

Too scared to meet my gaze

I have met as a man still wanting

Only to lose again


A mother

Cold in her escape from shame

Rejects the boy she sold

For appearance sake


Aunts, uncles, cousins all spread

Like windblown ash

Turned in upon their own fractures

Are a riven remnant family

A tattered thing apologising

For its own undoing


I set upon this nightmare road

Grown from the seed

Of ancestral misdeeds

Only waking

After my hands were bloodied

My loves in ruin


If we are to show any hope

We must stop burning chunks of earth

To fortify our frightened lives

And start asking what

We are leaving behind

How will our loved survive


Children have not lost interest in history

They are running

From famished fingers


They fight

To build new homes

From broken bones

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The world is insane and I'm in writing therapy!

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Posted in Culture / News, Poetry
31 comments on “History’s Fingers – A Poem
  1. Beautiful, brave and full of resonant imagery…is there anything you can’t do?
    P.S. I can’t help the teacher in me telling you to take the apostrophe out of the ‘its’ before children…sorry 😉

  2. Mike, wow. This is so strong. I completely love this poem, and refuse to point out one thing I like better than anything else, except I am completely enamored with that fourth stanza.

  3. eparkperry says:

    This is so beautiful. It is important to understand past generations, but also to let go of what they held so we don’t pass it on to our children, or allow it to poison our own perceptions. Thank you for sharing. You have such a powerful voice.

    • ruleofstupid says:

      Absolutely – it’s a bit trite but as they say “we don’t own this world, we rent it from our children.” At this rate they won’t be giving us our deposit back!
      I’m glad it resonated with you, thanks for sharing your thoughts and compliments.

  4. Gorgeous and heartbreaking. And I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by a lot of descendants of Holocaust survivors.

  5. This is pretty killer. You specifically asked for critical feedback on poems, right?

    I think, because “fingers” titles the piece and recurs as an image, this needs to be really tight.

    The image of cracks as fingers is powerful but the phrase “to dig” waters it down. It is a little staid. Imagine that sentence with those two word gone. The dug-out space is still apparent because cracks are themselves empty, and the metaphor of fingers gives us the right insidiousness without the (slight) cliche.

    I feel, in this light, that the adjective “cruel” in the second instance of fingers is too much as well. We already have the notion of them dividing families with darkness, their malice is innate. The word itself is emotive but not evocative, here. As such, it is a little showy.

    Because we are told that it is History to whom these fingers belong by this text, I would offer the suggestion that you may not need to mention it in the title. “Long Fingers” alone is intriguing, strong and the metaphor is created better by the poem itself than the title can manage.

    I like this poem, with its indeed far reaching sense of history but also the succinct sketches of individuals within it. “Cannot feed for eating,” “Looking away from tomorrow,” and the narrow “maturity to use [only] one tool” are all terrific descriptions. There is just enough opinion, in the form of lament, without becoming preachy.

    Consider what I have said, if you will, and obviously do not leap to change anything. Just thoughts, as I enjoyed the piece a great deal.

    • ruleofstupid says:

      I can’t believe you said mean things about my poem, I hate you, I hate you, you made me cry and I’m telling my Blog-Mummy on you!!!

      Ahem…

      A very considered critique – I will look at it in this light and see what occurs. Many thanks.

      • I dearly hope there was no hint of truth in that feeling — really, I probably spend too much time on critique forums. Please believe I would not comment on something I didn’t like.

      • ruleofstupid says:

        Poppet, I am not the sensitive type. I’d be a hypocrite to strop, and anyway, I hope I’d strop rather more spectacularly and wittily than that if I meant it! 😉

        So. I have looked and agree. Now I have more descriptive fingers, but that would have led to over-use of it if I’d gone with the title. I have compromised – what do you think?

      • Not to rush things, yes, I like the title. Length is still implied, actually. History would probably not have stubby fingers, after all.

        Famished fingers, that has nice alliteration. If the description conveys qualities you intend, then perfect. Not sure if “gaunt” adds something particular; in truth, I preferred simply “their” as it was clear, no chance of ambiguity as to whether the cracks do reach, or have reached.

        Don’t take me wrongly, I was not calling for large shift of meaning, only exposing my own poetic thought process with regard to tuning what is said.

        I should stew this and come back in the morning and tell you how I think things sound then 🙂

      • ruleofstupid says:

        Cool. I had wanted a ‘bone-like-hungry’ suggestion for the hands, but couldn’t find the right word. Thanks to your comments I tried again, famished popped up and I had it. Gaunt may be over-doing it but, like you say, I won’t know till I’ve stepped back again.
        Thanks though, appreciate the effort 🙂

      • Talking about poems, what could be more enjoyable? 🙂

        Poems are like puzzles, aren’t they, with emotional and aesthetic pieces as well as syntactic ones.

      • ruleofstupid says:

        Yes. I love them – how they can turn entirely with a single comma, a change of verb. Emotilogicality!

  6. Todd Ehlers says:

    Very moving, especially the first ten stanzas, which could stand alone. I wonder if it ought to be tightened after that, remaining faithful to the key imagery? Also, for me “fractures” begs to become “furnaces.” (Work in fractures elsewhere?)

    Many thanks for allowing me to feel your genealogical heritage and baggage.

  7. Never read a poem like that, before.
    Glad I did today.

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