While Vigilance Slept (revision of Dignity Restored)
by Alan D Busch
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A crime neither forgiven nor forgotten ... (still under construction)
In Skokie, Illinois where I live, there stands a sad but magnificent sculpture dedicated to the 6,000,000 kedoshim, martyrs. It was dedicated 21 years ago when it was unveiled in May of 1987. The first night following the unveiling, the sculpture was desecrated by Jew hating miscreants with red spray paint.
The statue depicts a small group of people huddled together, the tallest among them a Jewish freedom fighter. A belt of bullets hangs round his neck like a sash of honor. His face is strong and angry but gripped with anguish, his arms outstretched, shielding his flock: a bearded grandfather dressed in the garb of the shtetl; a terrified young boy who clings to the grandfather; and a mother, brought to her knees with a limp, lifeless child in her arms.
I attended the unveiling and upon learning of its overnight desecration I returned the next day to witness what had been done. I was enraged and from such rage I wrote the following piece, now 21 years ago. I have revised it over the years more than a few times, the latest being February 21st, 2008, but the essential foundation of the poem remains the same as it was originally.
Holy martyrs, our kedoshim
for whom stands this monument tall,
Shout defiantly “Never Again”
at last, once and for all.
When a mother's baby her arms have stifled ...
and a small boy to his Zayde clings fast ...
Stand by free nations and do nothing
as you have done so well in the past.
Taller than all, a partisan stands,
his outstretched hand says "Follow Me!"
A necklace of bullets his chest adorns,
who'll say Kaddish if not we?
Despite the ocean of carnage,
stubbornly shining amidst rubble and rock ...
the beacon bright of a Sefer Torah
whose defilers did so cruelly mock.
When that night ere long evil befell,
while asleep our teary-eyed gaze ...
Arise oh slumbering vigilance,
your spark is none too ablaze.
From the fiery pit rose particulate,
almost before as on snowy days
Floating neshamos ever upward
while chimneys belch ashen haze.
Not one eye saw the nocturnal commission ...
the Churban hadn't ended as many thought
that good people shouldn't suffer the misanthrope
such was the lesson history had taught.
A garden became this memorial soon,
and erased were the lies
that had blackened the truth.
Dignity restored its shiny gloss
to those words we read anew …
of six million lost.
Toward heaven still point these Kedoshim
without doubt, dread or shame,
that even those departed …
must struggle to hone
Alan D. Busch
Poetry, Dialogue, Composition