Poetry as a response, fire

Here is another “poets respond” poem. Writing a poem in a week–or less than a week–is hard for me. I generally write slowly and revise a lot. But the Rattle Poets Respond challenge has goaded me to get off my ass when I hear stories like last week’s and like this one. Both stories have come to me through non-US channels–had I not been in my car during BBC or CBC programs, I might not have heard them.

I offer both the link to the story and my poem responding to the alleged arson in Bautzen, Germany. What struck me hardest was the description of some of the crowd that gathered showing “undisguised joy,” as if ownership of the past stays with those generations. That reminded me of my own country, the U.S., where not long ago angry crowds gathered to block children who were fleeing Central America.

Staring at the light and the smoke
in the cold in the crowd in the night—
and they say you are beaming, say
undisguised joy as the blaze licks and leaps,
shivers ground to sky, fire eating
through the empty hotel, consuming
rooms for people coming from the south
and when you hear the sirens, you start
to slow the trucks—a little hinder,
a lot of hell and ashes. In the morning,
soot stains on pale rose walls,
busted windows, charred bone rafters.

I’ve seen your pack slathering
closer to home—not fire, but a lot of teeth,
eyes scorching as they blocked the buses
filled with children coming from the south.
I remember in the movie Shoah,
the women of a town across the border
smiled, laughed even, said they were glad
when the Jewish girls were taken away.