i can’t forget her eyes

i say “i didn’t bring my perfume
cause i think you should smell
a city”, eyes closed, cheeks pressed
on her chest, the good, & bad,

topography of terror, berlin, i stare
at her face, head shaved,
they bound her to a pole, mockers
in state uniforms //on another pic,

six men, striped prisoner suits,
head in a looped rope,
construction kicked away
lifeLess, i sCrEAm


the scent of death like acid in my nose,

(a bleached poster on the next wall)

60.000 Reichsmark is the cost for
this disabled guy during his life time,
that’s your money– FoLK–!!, those
that can’t work, dON’t /We!! doN’t feed Them–
hot, TEARs, in the park,

no words, just terror on the wet face
of the Spree, my back preSSed hard
against a tree, rough bark
scratches mark wounded skin, i CRash,
biting ants under my shirt,
puSH harder & the sun falls
FaST– FasTer,


i could catch her


just coming back from berlin.. was visiting the topography of terror, a museum in berlin on the area of the former Gestapo and SS headquarter.. really hit me hard.. linking this to dVerse to Anna’s prompt – the unfathomable


43 responses to “i can’t forget her eyes

  1. You really conveyed well what it must be like to be there among a historical catastrophe that isn’t too far in the distant past. WOnderful writing, lady.

  2. Moving poem, and the propaganda reminded me of some of the things politicians say now about people who are poor, or mentally ill. Scary, actually.

  3. ..oh dear,,had to have been a strange and horrid feeling to actually be there…so many people..gone..I’m sure you have been there before, right? So awful, the heartless mockers and screams of terror!

  4. Claudia, yikes! what a visceral poem and imagery–emotion–can only imagine what you saw, it stays with you for a long time doesn’t it? Went to a small museum that had a room full of photos and letters of Cuban refugees who tried to come here by makeshift rafts and didn’t make it–the walls were packed with papers crammed edge to edge–I’ll never forget that.

  5. Oh wow, this is so good. I love these:

    “cause i think you should smell
    a city”

    “topography of terror, berlin, i stare
    at her face”

  6. The twentieth century was a particularly brutal one in Europe, from the mechanical slaughter of The Great War, through the Russian Revolution and Civil War on to the Stalinist purges, through the Fascist terror in Spain and the Republican counter-terror and internal bloodshed, through WW2 and the Holocaust, to the Balkans conflicts that ended the century – not forgetting little local spats like the Hungarian uprising and the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and countless little brutalities that get forgotten.

    I can’t say I ‘love’ this poem, because that doesn’t seem like an appropriate reaction. I am constantly reminding myself that Europe has been almost totally stripped of an entire sociological layer that was part of its fabric for the first one-third of the century – its Jewish bourgeoisie. Although Europe’s Jews were not the only people to suffer (the cost in lives to the Soviet Union in WW2 was staggering, for example) their active contribution to European culture is diminished almost to vanishing point, and we are still counting the cost.

    I am currently reading a book entitled ‘The Spanish Holocaust’ by Paul Preston. It is a long work about the systematic and largely undocumented mass-murders carried out before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War. Because it is an open work of historical writing it has to cover the extremities of violence by all involved, not only Franco’s Fascists, but also by the Republicans and by groups within Republican Spain. I applaud this, even though it means exposing any and all atrocities committed by groups to whom I am close politically and with whose aims I sympathise. I have to acknowledge that in a war, including a civil war and a revolution, civilisation goes out of the window; the situation is never in control, no matter what claims are made by successful generals afterwards, and the terms ‘means’ and ‘end’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, are almost meaningless.

    But peace is not simply a state of being, a matter of personal ‘metanoia’; it involves social justice, or it is meaningless. Thus humankind is condemned to the paradox of struggling for it, and to bearing the consequences of struggle.

    Back to your poem. What can I say? Yes, after all I do love it. I do love the way you write, the way you can say things way beyond the words you use and the sticky caps and so forth. I do love what you have done here.

  7. topography of terror… those are important words to keep and remind ourselves. All nations have them. Humanity is stained with these tracks if we look far enough into history….and we should have it like a map inside never to follow.

    and scream No just like you.

    This touched me deep…

  8. C…wow…
    topography of terror…great summation.
    Claudia, I have been inching my way through Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas which focuses on the spiritual liquidity of the times.
    I also just finished listening to Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, part of which documents his survival of the camps. Insane.
    Human’s will never quite learn as evidenced in the world today. By the grace of God we can strive to be the best “us” we can and practice intentional acts of kindness and compassion.
    May we continue to learn from the past and make our best effort to learn from it and prevent horrors from happening again.

  9. so powerful, felt it most when “(a bleached poster on the next wall)” appeared, like death itself plastered to peel and fray, quite brave to go to that museum, and glad berlin has it for people to remember, it can and has happened…thank you claudia

  10. I am always so amazed when I read your poems that English is not your first language. You craft such brilliant images and use the language in a way that I am often awed by. This is a stunning piece and conveys the horror and tragedy so clearly.

  11. 70 years have passed, but some of the Holocaust survivors are still with us, and lest we forget, the museums and poets can still reinforce the /topography of terror/ I remember that in 1978, when I started working with the blind, there were still a few WWI veterans alive; now the WWII veterans are fading, disappearing, but their legacy will haunt history; loved your poem.

  12. “i say “i didn’t bring my perfume
    cause i think you should smell
    a city”, eyes closed, cheeks pressed
    on her chest, the good, & bad…”

    Thank-you, for sharing a very thought-provoking poem…as I read your delicate [poetic] words, imagine[d] your powerful imagery [in my mind-eye]…This very heart-breaking documentary sent to me by my good-friend Sam Juliano, came to my mind immediately.

    [postscript:please be advised: some Of the images from Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) are devastating…

    I have only viewed this documentary once and I don’t think that I could [ever] view this documentary again…not because i don’t want to view it again, but it’s to heart-breaking and painful for me to watch again.]
    Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) part 1/3
    Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) part 2/3
    Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) part 3/3

    deedee 😦

  13. O man, C … this poem hits home hard … war is still going on … on all levels … from world wars to personal ones … main thing is to forget never to look into our fellow man’s eyes … so we will learn compassion and never forget how to be compassionate.

  14. >the scent of death like acid in my nose,
    >(a bleached poster on the next wall)

    There’s something very fascinating in how you go from this really gripping line toward something ordinary and common place … it’s an excellent contrast.

    The whole poem is riveting. Thank you.

  15. You painted a picture here Claudia with haunting accuracy. It is strange how we sense the dead and can visualise their pain and torment…


  16. You took me away from today once again, Claudia. I was a news junkie in
    1939-until today. Those stories leaking out from Europe (well, GERMANY!) were unfathomable to my 7-year old mind, as they were unbelievable to the “good”adult Peeps.
    Museum sounds so interesting, especially to us Peeps who, if we admit something bad is happening–we become responsible to DO something about it…..

    Your excellent poetry is so enlightening re history and your own philosophy.
    Thank you for these work.

  17. Good grief this is great writing. How did I miss this one? Powerful isn’t powerful enough to describe it.

    It begins so beautifully, and dreamy:

    i say “i didn’t bring my perfume
    cause i think you should smell
    a city”


    that’s your money– FoLK–!!, those
    that can’t work, dON’t /We!! doN’t feed Them–
    hot, TEARs, in the park,

    where your use of caps and exclamation points really really work magic… it screams anger, emotion, fear, and dread. This one will be sticking in my head for a long time.