she hit me offhand //with those smiling dark eyes

in the corridor of the anne frank exhibit in berlin

in the corridor of the Anne Frank exhibit in berlin

.

i’m in everybody’s way,
literally, coincidentally landing
on the steps to the Anne Frank exhibit,

i don’t go inside though, pockets full
of history already (Käthe Kollwitz, Otto Weidt–),
instead stay in the narrow corridor,
at the bottom of Anne’s curious-for-life eyes,
& her “in spite of everything, i still believe
that people are really good at heart”
hiTs me froNtal, FullForce
//unprepared

–she never made it into sixteen,

&i listen to the voice that reads
passages of her diary,
(a present for her 13th birthday)
how they put layers of skirts&sweaters on
to take as much with them as possible,
how she hardly couldn’t breathe
because of all the clothes

through the floor pane– houses, sprayed with graffiti,
dark brown painted wooden stairs beneath me,
i sit pressed against the floor wall,
listening to the dreams and struggles

of a teenage girl who wrote in march, 1944
“How wonderful it is
that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world” 

the stairs gnarl ailing
with every step that someone makes,
BuMM bUmm bUmM
heavy military boots, state police storming a flat,
tearing people out of bed//life,
deport whole families into KZ’s,

what did they know about a girl, writing her heart
into a little book with red/white cover?

–the only thing her father holds in hand
beside the memories of his family after march ’45,

what do I know–?

the sun paints evening patterns on the window sill,
i check sub connections that will take me
somewhere close to home, &
getting up, things have shifted– i

grab the rail, catch a last glimpse of her face,
then set my feet
out on the streets of a free berlin

.

the parts in italics are quotes by Anne Frank–
having a good time in berlin – it’s a vibrant and inspiring city – and – talking about inspiration… smiles…it’s OpenLinkNight at dVerse again… check out some other poets, tag in your own… doors open at 3pm EST..

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62 responses to “she hit me offhand //with those smiling dark eyes

  1. yeah she hits me like that every time – just amazing, the heart of her during those unspeakable times…

    and now, a free berlin (it still feels breathtaking to me, as if it happened yesterday)

  2. you may remember my trip to the holocaust museum…how it hit me…and your poem did much the same bringing back what i felt there in the moment…the military boots, them coming…love the intensity there…as i feel it…oh what i must have been…i was glad for the release there in the end c…nicely done…

  3. My grand parents were taken to Siberia in Jan 1945. They never returned, but they managed to hide my young mumme in Germany. She is still with us today.

  4. This is awesome… amazingly sad, but still so full of hope that one person’s courage can make such an impact. Will be mid-air on my way to California on business when bar opens. If I have any energy left when I come to the hotel I will go in and check things. 🙂

  5. You are so right: those eyes full of hunger for life and amusement. I dread to think of how those eyes must have looked in her last few days, her last moments.
    Perhaps Berlin is one of those cities that will always echo with unbearable sadness – or is it just us who feel it?
    I went there with my children and could not believe I could walk through the Brandenburger Tor and had such difficulty explaining the past to them. They just could not believe it.
    I like the way you turn the poem around from sadness to hope.

  6. Anne Frank’s story told an re-told. A story where what happened held a spell over everyone. Apparently it is still relevant even now. Great take Claudia!

    Hank

  7. You put the reader right there with you to feel goosebumps with you as well. Yes those eyes of Ann Frank looking toward that future she never saw; but I think she would be pleased if she returned today and saw the “free Berlin” you have been writing about. What she and others went through is unspeakable, but her life will live on and her message of hope and love still gives to us so many years later.

  8. Claudia – your words haunted me, Anne Frank haunts me with her hope undiminished, and I don’t believe we will ever know the power of hope until we read what she wrote in those darkest days. It is poets and writers, dreamers and believers that keep her dream and hope alive and I think she would be pleased with that. Very pleased.

  9. Claudia, even though you posted the photo of her smile – it is your words that brought her alive. I read the diary when young, which makes it not 2 decades old when I read it. As an adult I am unable to go back and read it again. It is too powerful. Too close to home. My in-laws lost too many family members. The pain although not directly mine is too fresh. You did an extraordinary job here.

  10. Yes, priorities do change when we get glimpses like this. Last night I heard a speaker tell of his time at a mission in Liberia, and how all one man wanted to do before he died was learn to write his name… that was it. Wow.

  11. A remarkable young girl ~ I can’t imagine how living in those times can be but I can tell how great an impact she had with you – hiTs me froNtal, FullForce //unprepared –

    Enjoy your travels & safe journey home ~

  12. This hit me, such a wonderful human being that she was…I think of all the children that didn’t make it and those that did like my father. I think of what a great man he grew up to be and how he lives on inside of us…I think of all the things she could have been. So sad.

  13. on the streets in free berlin – that really says it all, doesn’t it – this was so moving – it has been a long time since I read her story – will look for it again at the library to re-read – as always, your words transport me to another place – lovely, K

  14. You catch the pain, the unreliability, the futility, the shame, the loss, the emptiness, the hope, the tiny shred of hope that a child could hold that flame in such darkness, that there is still a chance for mankind before the beauty of innocence is completely lost. Fine work here, Claudia.

  15. Perfect in every way. I am hit, I am bull’s eye of love, hate, tears. This is the best poem ever about this. I will put it in the “I cannot live without this” folder on my hard drive. Thank you.

  16. It is from within the context of plenty and freedom and hope that the profundity of Anne’s reflections strike a fierce blow to the solar plexus.
    This is a fitting piece, an eloquent tribute, in the spirit that history forgotten is history repeated.
    It is clear Ann Frank still inspires . . . her spirit indeed eternal.
    Cheers!

  17. Gives me chills when I think of these unbearable times and the atrocities that we (the greatest of apes) have the ability to inflict upon one another. I can’t imagine the courage needed to maintain such innocence in a time of such trouble. Nor could I comprehend the pain one must have felt in the end knowing that beyond all the hope and beauty of her words arrives in a single moment of definative horror. Excellent job bringing us through this emotional journey.

  18. This actually brought tears to my eyes. Despite the tragedy of her story, her faith in mankind, her goodness, always fills me with hope. This was a beautiful, moving poem.

  19. I see you stumbling upon her face, and I looked up at her picture much the same. Primed by the poem’s title, I felt it likewise…like a slap. The story reverberates in my heart seeing her innocence. How did this amazing child write such words?

    “How wonderful it is
    that nobody need wait a single moment
    before starting to improve the world”

    Can we keep this within ourselves? No boots pound below me; I do not suffocate in my clothes to keep as much as I can; I do not use my birthday journal to keep thoughts I have no knowledge will be looked upon decades later…such a horrific time in human history. I am not a hero. She is, though, and she inspires and you likewise in your retelling and perspective.

    So powerfully written, as always. When you get up at the end to walk away, it reflects my moving on from the poem that hit me square in the chest. I experience it and it will stay with me, but I have to move on.

    Something feels odd in the casual passing of such a thing. I wish I could flash this moment into others’ eyes and embed it in their brain, so they’ll always remember but be able to move on and “improve the world” as she states so spectacularly in those times. It is “wonderful,” despite it all. I want to remember her words…

  20. By the way, I was looking at this painting by Salvador Dali and thought of your poem:

    There are so many layers of meaning that I’ve just scratched the surface after looking at it for 45 minutes…

  21. “Yes you did Claudia! It was on May 12,2013! You came in at 8.14am beating Cuban in London by one minute! Yes, you did!

    Hank”

    Just in case you don’t make a repeat visit, above is the burning question answered. I thought I’d re-post my reply for you to see here! Yes, you did come in first at Pat Hatt’s. Thanks Ma’am!

    Hank

  22. This is one of those poems that brings tears when one considers the hardship of others and how they are able to maintain a sense of true hope and belief in mankind.

  23. Anne Frank is a gift to humanity because she was not a hero … but she was heroic. She was just like so many others, but kept a journal. She was youth, full of dreams, life, albeit a bit naive… I think the last is what allowed her to have hope… As many people have, I have been fascinated with her since I was a little girl. Two books that have had a profound impact on me… Tilli’s Story – an East German girl who escaped at the age of 16 – her story of life up and through the invasion of the Russians. I’m not sure if it is still in print, but I bet you can find it on Amazon. Another is a fictional story, but almost left more of an impact on me as I have never stopped thinking about it. It is also a movie, which I liked, but I recommend reading the book first. Sarah’s Key – the little known historical truth of France’s shameful role in rounding up and executing the Jewish people. Heavy reading, but it is history.

    Loved your poem… I can’t even imagine how I would feel standing outside a place where so much… went on… Well done.

  24. You touched my heart in a deep way with your writing about Anne Frank, Claudia. Will just keep my comments at that. I did visit the Holocaust Museum in DC a few years ago. Enormous emotional toll but had to go. Am sure we had much of the same thoughts and feelings.

  25. And not only did she try to keep her spirits alive, but that of those around her. I remember reading of her saving the soap scraps to give as a gift. Even in the darkest of hours, her light still shone. Thank you for reminding us this ever-poignant story, Claudia.

  26. It was fourteen years ago I walked through that house. The sun shining in late May. Yet as I penetrated the rooms, the chills increased, goosebumps… The hardest part for me was in the actual room that was Anne’s. Some of her little picture cut-outs she had stuck to the wall remained. Talk about getting choked up! Then after exiting and walking through the gift shop, I walked out on the street to find her statue with red swastikas painted on it. I hope they are not still there.
    With a few well chosen words, you took me right back there.
    Merci beaucoup Claudia!

  27. We know the story, but you make it fresh again – and as heart-rending as ever, a serious, tragic, disturbing and beautifully written poem that will stay with me for a goodly while.

  28. That was intense and beautiful… it makes your trip as well as the book come alive in a new way. It makes me want to pick it up and re-read it from cover to cover, once more.

    That’s how inspiration works, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing this…

  29. Well done Claudia… this certainly gets to the heart. Last night I watched ‘Comet Line’ on TV about the resistance who helped British airmen get back home via Spain and Gibraltar during WW2. I know one of the men who was interviewed about his experiences, he was 18 at the time. What they suffered moved me to tears again. And I also remember my father who was on the first wave of the D.Day landings. What sufferings there were in that terrible war. A blessing that Berlin is free and united again

  30. It was chilling for me to visit her house in Amsterdam. It’s amazing how one little girl, could leave such a mark. Thank you for your poem and the remarkable quotes. Glad you’re having a good time in Berlin.

  31. …ah, lucky you Claudia… lucky you to stand before her scattered remains… if i was there i would talk to her as if we were both ancient diaries reading each other’s words from the eye of another… ah, lovely…lovely… lovely…smiles…

  32. I saw her face as I began to scroll and felt a sorrowful sense of courage before I reached your poem. curious-for-life eyes is brilliant. I would love to have a chance to visit this museum and pause to lose myself in the what-ifs. Excellent work.

  33. AGAIN!!! Blogspot loved SO much what I had written you, that it stole the whole comment (chapter?) right out from under.

    To finish, a huge THANK YOU for reminding me of those years (Anne Frank was/is but four years my senior) those years of bloody chaotic senseless “cleansing” of the world(?)

    This line I recall SO well, “… “in spite of everything, i still believe
    that people are really good at heart”…is the stuff of which saints are made. I’m sure many a martyr used those very words, in preaching their trust, blind faith, in a God they neither could see nor understand.
    Claudia…PEACE and LIGHT!

    WHAT A TRIP!

  34. Absolutely wonderful and so much truth in every word. She has always been someone I admire and respect and felt like she accomplished far beyond her death to the lives of millions after, a legacy no one could have every imagined. Enjoyed this so much and did not know of this exhibit. You are fortunate to have gone.

  35. Anne Frank left us with memories of one special life. Left a chilling tale of how violence and hate torn apart the world in the past. Is today different? I wonder will we learn one day? War is a sin. You would think the human race would be tire of war? Anne Frank need to be remember. Old war, new war. The innocent pay for the hate and greed of men. Thank you for the amazing poetry.

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