July 29, 2009

Ed Galing


germany looks real
good now,
the hills are quiet
the rivers flow smooth
there is an air of
as our travel bus
and the travel guide
tells us all about
in his german clipped
we all look out the
side windows,
absorb this land
of kings, and wars,
and there are forty
of us,
around my age, or a
bit younger,
and this is their first
trip to germany, but not
I was here during world
war two, as a soldier
in the 3rd army,
and saw the concentration
camps of dachau
where we are now
the autobahn is a great
way to travel,
almost like I ninety five,
something good that hitler
left behind,
and soon we are disembarked,
and we all walk through
the gates of dachau,
this german guide is so
pleasant, and in soft voice
describes the torture chambers
of long ago,
still here,
while everyone looks on in shock
and dismay, they can’t believe
it, you can see the horror in their
and then we are marched into
the place where two ovens
are still,
where bodies were once burned
without remorse,


and I find it looks
just the same as it did
more than fifty years
when I was here last,
I look at the german
guide and wonder
where he was during
the war,
perhaps he was one
of those nazis that even
worked at this infamous
there is no way for me
to know, except that
he must have passed the
u.s. intelligence survey,
or he would have been hung
up like the rest in
the group stands before
the two big ovens
while the guide speaks
in a low voice about the
many humans who were
put to death here,
and the group shake their
heads, and some weep a bit,
and it’s just the way it
was when I last stood here
myself, after the war,
except the piles of broken teeth,
jewelry, clothing, are all gone
there is an uneasy feeling
about all of this,
as if I am living in a nightmare
while this group are merely onlookers
who always squirm, even back home,
when they read gory accounts of
death, at home; a kind of aloofness,
after all, it didn’t happen to them…
after some time we all pile
back into the bus, and it is
beginning to rain,
and the sky is getting dark,
and I get an uneasy funny


and call me foolish
but as the bus pulls
with all of us inside,
and the german guide
with the big moustache
has a funny look in his
and the german bus driver
is so silent,
I think, what if this bus,
with all of us innocent
are all on our way to some
death camp,
somewhere here in germany,
that nobody knows about,
and we are headed there now,
and nobody will know,
and nobody will find us,
and we will all wind up like
those in dachau…
once again,
and I close my eyes, and try
to sleep, to forget the
thought of it.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008