When We Talk About the Holocaust Too Much
The past tense of “have” is “ache.”
Used in a sentence: “I have a people,
we are strong;” becomes “there is an ache where family
The limitation in the combinations of words becomes
a symbol of language’s failings:
in the communication of
magnitude nothing we could say
will ever be big
enough. There will never
be enough words
for six million, the closest we have is
And yet, we have forgotten to mourn,
our fixation isn’t fashionable, the world is tired of
our uncaged grief. It is so big, it has been
for so long.
Language fails us further, or we fail it
in our refusal to speak.
We have learned to button our lips, to
keep silent until the executioner forgets
that we escaped the chopping block. We tried
rallying cries, those never
worked, even our prayers for peace
must be recited quiet in our temples.
Behind what bars
do you lock yourself
if you are afraid of your own trembling cry,
a never-ending wail?
We promise to remember when
our shirts were embroidered with stars, we
tuck our stars today under our collars, we
insist that shame and survival are two sides
of the same dangerous coin. This insistence
is quiet, this existence is similarly so.
Like students bent over grammar books,
we recite conjugations to ourselves. This is
a new tongue, unfamiliar vocabulary: I live,
you live, we live, he lives, she lives, they live, a miracle
we can still say these words.
Previously published with Poetica Magazine’s Spring 2016 Issue.
By Allya Yourish
Allya Yourish is a student at New College of Florida, where she studies Art History and Literature. She won first place in the 2015 Rutstein Essay Competition and third place in PoetryLife’s 2015 College Division contest. A former Tumbleweed at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, she now lives in Paris. She is a full time nanny and a part time coffee addict and can usually be found jotting inspiration down in a small pink Moleskine.