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A Map of the Lost World

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A Mp of the Lost World One theme persists (from the Tlmud): To sve one life is s if one sved The entire world. For long fternoons In Ohio, I nd my ninety-yer-old friend St knee to knee t his kitchen tble
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A Mp of the Lost World One theme persists (from the Tlmud): To sve one life is s if one sved The entire world. For long fternoons In Ohio, I nd my ninety-yer-old friend St knee to knee t his kitchen tble Beneth the ceiling s bright overhed; Between us, the mp of his besieged City, Wrsw, unfolded, unfolding Further s he led us down streets Tht no longer exist, through sewers He knew by hert nd wded those First dys of the lst ghetto uprising, Two shdows moving under boulevrd, Avenue, ulic (street) the snowy dust Now lighting up round him nd us In the refrigertor hum smll universe In which the Wrsw Ghetto comes To life, stirred by his fingertips. DC Spring. The cherry blossoms swy Eerily outside the Museum of Remembrnce, Red-white explosions ginst nvy-blue sky Blckening: nother inscrutble portent Of erly spring. In less thn three months The museum theter s world premiere 53 Of Anne nd Emmett 1 will be postponed Indefinitely fter WWII vet (ex-nvy, PT bot officer) enters the museum lobby Setting off the lrm nd shoots to deth A museum gurd. 2 Lter, in his Annpolis home, Feds find his wepons cche nd oil pints. Once inside, the Museum of Remembrnce Archivist leds me through the new disply: The Well-Kept Secrets of Bd 3 Arolsen Five of eleven yellowing snkeskin miles Of moldy Nzi documents just relesed for Reserch fter seven decdes. (How long it tkes To unfurl one scroll of History.) I m here Following pper tril for my Ohio friend, Now filing whose nme in Armic mens Hert-wise nd prise (= T.) Shoh survivor And widower still hoping to lern the ftes Of prison friends, when out of deep-se digitl Memory surfces the yellowing SS file on him. From Dchu (one of seven internment cmps He mnged to withstnd) filled out in longhnd 1 An imgined converstion between Anne Frnk nd Emmett Till. 2 Stephen Tyrone Johns (October 4, 1969 June 10, 2009), n Africn Americn ex-mrine nd the Holocust Museum security gurd shot to deth shortly fter opening the front door for n eighty-nine-yer old self-professed white supremcist. 3 Germn for sp town. 54 And blue ink. A bottom line like blck corkscrew Curl pulled tight by Nme der Ehefru (Wife) sys: Gbriell Gbriell? But his lte wife ws Ew. And room long-dressed in shdows now opens. Tht Mrch night, outside the DC hotel: lit Monuments, wning moon, nd shooting strs Of neon pink nd green br light below me Blur on wet concrete; the drenched red-white Cherry blossoms now glisten like spphires. I cll my friend. His voice, tht old-world Britone chemo-chiseled to squeky tenor An old hm rdio mplifier s red needle, Quivering. This will be our lst converstion. Too tired to spek, he sys: Cowl bck Lter in thee week. And I tell you everything! But erly Sundy morning, I ll her his dughter s Voice, nd know, before she s sid word Ech word n X, dissolving unknown history. Weeks lter, prcel rrives mrked: Priorytet. Return ddress unfmilir, street in WARSZAWA: The nme, world-renowned neurosurgeon/chess chmpion, And my ded friend s best friend of seven decdes, 55 George. Or Jerzy (= J.), whose nme in Greek Mens erth worker nd wy of trining Apprentice knights with lnces. J., one who Shrpens the known edges of vilble thought And erth, one who lbors t his work, kneding The soil, now helps us both to reconstruct The scene. The envelope tht seems prt Sunflower, prt fllen mple lef contins A glossy portrit of the sender nd his wife On rust-brown vinyl sof, the mn s fce: Clen-shven, elfin, grinning beneth thick Low-wtt shock of Einstein hir, beige shirt Beige sweter vest lit by red, white, blue Striped bowtie. His wife of seven decdes Beside him on the couch looks uncertin: A strk contrst to the portrit of her, hovering Like thought blloon bove their heds On the wood pneling. (Her younger self, Mid-rgument, looks like ct redy to Pounce.) In old ge she only recognizes J. Whose letter now begins to ddress Some of wht his friend no longer cn. He mentions book, then untngles The writer s full nme brmble of Polish consonnts, which in Hebrew men: One who delivers or rescues from oblivion : (First nme: Moshe, nicknme: Mietek = M.). Also mening: One drwn s from wter 56 As if J. s rticultion pulled M. from depths Where he long lnguished; or the infnt Moses With whom M. shres nme then the Retired shper of vilble thought nd erth Sys:... And I tell you things... I tell nobody else! Through dolescence, I shook Mgic 8 Bll, lmost religiously, to nswer Crushed-out questions, turned my Seedy dime-store orb till it surrendered The nswer I lredy knew I wnted most: (Usully: ALL signs point to yes!) Now I trwl Google (n orcle good s ny) For ny clues nd find the memoir: Mietek s A PRISONER OF HOPE. Lter, t home, I flip through the university librry s ner- Pristine copy, when suddenly one sentence Unfurls, prcticlly stmpeding to life With my ded friend s full nme. Rising In the bright dust of flickering home movie Blck-nd-whites: Wrsw; October 39. A month fter Polnd s invded by Nzis. M. is new physicin just mrried Now n officer. His fther-in-lw, WWI Hero (cvlry three times wrded Polnd s Purple Hert) believes M. s chnces of survivl Dubious t best. His evidence?: Moshe s poor Showing t plying crds: (... Every dy, 57 You ply worse. But tody you plyed me, Mietek, Like it ws hundred yers from now! ) The Wr hero escorts his son-in-lw to the Russin Front himself, leving the fmily women Behind in Wrsw. In three months, it s toxic: Nzis occupy the wr hero s Wrsw prtment (An SS Lieutennt Memmler nd henchmn, Who re behving well enough thus fr Even bringing the women:... flour, oil, sugr. And for no fee! ) Fering good behvior won t lst, The women tke the long trin south... to the Blck Se. Feb. 40. All rrive sfely t the Odess home. But n unexpected fourth hs joined their compny: Gbriell s pre-wr Wrsw boyfriend: Tdzik! Alive gin, t twenty-two, nd our protgonist. It ll seems like doomed reltions from the strt: The terms: A = 1 [crmped studio prtment]; + [(3 couples)/(the Blck Se)] 1 [unmrried] + [2 cots + 1 bed] C = [dispprovl: their prents ]. All vribles mke for n eqution resolvble s: π. The next eight months re To of clculus ( the study Of chnge ) when letter from T. s fther rrives Demnding his only son return... immeditely! T. returns to Odess... multiple times (From Wrsw). M. sys in mid-mrch T. s given... An ultimtum from his mother, Sbin. Tht night, T. removes himself completely from 58 The Blck Se bord... never to return. Nov. 40. First snows, Gbriell gives birth to bby girl. Yet here the binding gent holding everything In plce in Mietek s pinted lndscpes hving Spnned such distnces memory, Time-Spce Grdully begins itself to dissolve in snowy flkes: (But how ccurte is ny representtion? Even This?) By the time the Nzis invde Polnd, T. s mother ws lredy ded. And mil service Hs long ended. So who delivered these letters? And how did they rrive? Cn we know? Cut To: The Libertion. The orrery of Love s plnets Religns, vrious chrcters cught in its gers. Gbriell now hs nother mn tril lwyer (Lolek = L.), lso from Wrsw, Jewish, who left wife And dughter behind, in the Wrsw Ghetto. 4 4 Menwhile, T. nd his fther, Henryk (= H.) re lso imprisoned in the Wrsw Ghetto (with pproximtely 400,000 other Polish Jews). H., chief surgeon of Wrsw s Jewish Hospitl t the time of the Nzi invsion of Polnd, dies in April 1941 from wound infection when he cuts himself during n opertion. In those pre-ntibiotic dys [his deth] my hve been voided if instruments could hve been sterilized properly (Chrles Rolnd, Courge Under Siege. Oxford University Press, 1992, pp ). After the Wrsw Ghetto, T. will be sent to six other concentrtion cmps: Treblink, Midnek, Birkenu, Schsenhusen, Dchu XI, nd Dchu IV. Found fce down in the snow when liberted by the Allies, he weighs seventy pounds nd is very close to deth ; it will tke three months of intensive cre to keep him live. A fellow survivor (Ew) will help nurse him bck to helth; they will mrry in 1947 (Tdeusz Stbholz, Siedem piekieł [Seven Hells]. Specjlne wydnie czsopism [specil limited edition], Stuttgrt, 1947; nd from orl testimony). Note tht the dtes of Gbriell s fther s letter nd other sources of the mrrige dte re lso in dispute. 59 Six months fter the wr, neither lover knows How their futures will squre with their psts. Cut to: Odess Depot. Spring 45. Gbriell s L. And her fther bord trin to serch for Survivors. A month lter, letter rrives For Gbriell postmrked berlin. Her fther, Stcho:... Der Child, I ll not even try to describe Wht I ve seen. Insted, I ll come right to the point. Two dys go I found your beloved T. in Germny. At cmp in Stuttgrt for the Dispossessed.... He looked hlf-strved, confused, nd not Visibly hppy t ll to be seeing me. Tdzik? I sid. You re live! Now you my hve your Gbriell And your dughter, witing you in the Ukrine! Almost the living imge of fruitless, winter Tree confronting brewing, nerly humn, Wether system pre-storm So brren of ffect, T., Stcho writes, sid: This is Most difficult to sy especilly to you But I m lredy mrried. Next dy, witing in Odess, Gbriell receives Another letter. Postmrk: wrszawa (From L.). She sees the long lines 60 For groceries outside then reds: His wife nd child They:... did not survive. Jerzy nd Mietek spek of the sme mn I write of, yet he becomes different person To ech, tking nother shpe completely Before dissolving gin in smoky breth. Cut to November 45. A letter rrives For Gbriell nd L. (now her husbnd) From her fther to sy he s found plce For the newlyweds to strt gin Seside in Gdnsk. Lter (quoting M.):... Now the couple my begin living The lives they ve wnted ll long.... Then M. dds:... Tdzik never sought Out Gbriell or their dughter gin. Not true! Jerzy tells me by phone And cross six time zones. Once, by Chnce, fter the wr, Jerzy sw Gbriell Wlking long the bech (outside Gdnsk, At Sopot). She told him Tdzik hd found Her fter the wr. But she no longer Wnted he-yhm. When the Berlin Wll Fell, their dughter found her fther Who pid her irfre, round-trip, Jeruslem To Clevelnd. Others close to her fther T. confide tht they both hoped for some Sort of reconcilition. Then the lost Dughter sw how fully fmily illness 61 (Ew s) hd rvged most, if not ll, of His svings. She lost interest. Another Pint fleck sprkles then crumbles to flkes. The Lost Cve Pintings of Grotto Cosquer When I finlly sw the museum s underwter Footge of explorer Henri Cosquer in silhouette, Bcklit by bright high bems nd floting Like cosmonut, triling long blck umbilicus And Cosquer t lst rrives t the right opening To find the cve pintings of Clnque Morgiou, The most perfectly intct petroglyphs then known Anywhere since Lscux even though the whole Scene ws stged, Cosquer still seemed to be entering The lost city of Atlntis. His hed poked through The underground wding pool s surfce; he stnds Wist-high inside cvern sprkling nd echoing. He tkes off his diver s msk, nd tnk, nd rubs A blck-gloved hnd long one wist-thick yellowing Downwrd-spirling fng whose lower hlf, submerged, Concels not bts or swifts but the blue-silver Undersides of neon fish, drting in nd out, Around nd through the explorer s shdowy legs. 62 Fish like shooting strs lighting up red nd blck Imges whose pigments, ground from wood Chrred blck round fires where, it seems, Our ncestors gthered nd told stories Of the dy s hunt, nd of their dys, nd te, Mixing the blckened wood with niml ft Dripping from the dy s kill, first on spit And turning; nd, for pigment, dding wrm Blood, then blowing the whole conglomerte Hot in the mouth, through hollow reeds, Onto these wlls outlined in chrcol; mong The red nd blck figures of urochs, bufflo, Sels, dolphins, jellyfish, guide points out The imge of the hunter killed t his own hnd By his or nother s sper. Before Henri Cosquer, Three other explorers died trying to find This long unknown spot, plce for centuries Held out of time in time. Then, for time, I wondered if my serch would mke of me A Cosquer or nother Ahb, destroying himself, His men, his whole vehicle for trnsformtion, By mking curse of the thing he crved. 63 I never wnted to mke of you some trick Of mirrored light, or lie of the imgintion. I never wnted this flurry of shooting strs To obscure your finl plce in the night sky. Is this why you kept the story to yourself? Becuse there ws no gift in it for us? Your silence, now bsolute, is not so different From the puses tht follow certin music. Or wht sometimes comes before the words. Tht some rel prt of you, still vitl, witing To be found on the mp of the lost world Might return, if I went fr enough, is the stuff Of poetry. The kind tht sys, Be vigilnt. We must love one nother while there is time. In tody s mil rrives: squre, white bubble Wrp miler of Frisbee-spn length nd heft. A prcel (from the Museum of Remembrnce) Nerly big enough to fill one pnel of prison- Brred storm windowpne suddenly flooded By lte fternoon light so blinding it turns The breth-stemed glss white. Inside slides Out silver, metllic DVD diskette tht grows More rinbow-colored the more I tilt it in ir; Its contents (for nother time) the enclosed Note sys: All known Nzi files on my friend And his prison mtes. How long will we shoulder Wht we cn ber of wht we ll never know Before the weight breks us, or we grow into it? 64
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