Nicholas Samaras: "Repetitions of Oswiecim"




          Oswiecim is the original name for the town

          later called by its German referent (Auschwitz).

          The original name has since been reinstated.


We could not cry here.

A dry land in a fertile field.


History a dry land always.

We could not cry here


and there are porcupines

in our throats. Oswiecim.


Each time we watch the story,

chewed bread chokes us.


Dry-eyed. Each time history

a slow accretion of details.


A slow accretion of silence we

could not cry. Numb magnitude. Eyes


hovering over the book and the map.

A parched country, the mirage of it. Oswiecim.


Open days, we dress in our lives.

Shirts buttoned at the windpipe.


Wrapped nights we go flying, go

anywhere into chronology, drummer


in our wrists, blue veins mapping

the skin—thus tattooed—a dry land


welling—Oswiecim—details of wings

hovering, details of thresholds


in ageing photographs

and the shadows


of doors. Pale ashan rising. Still

picture of a heavy door edging


closed or open. Barbed

ironflake, parchment, ash.


The name of a town

and the name of a town again.


Mutable cartographies.

Crust of bread.


A porcupine.

We could


not here.




Nicholas Samaras is the author of Hands of the Saddlemaker, a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His other awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and the Lilly Endowment Foundation. He serves as the poetry editor for The Adirondack Review, and his work has appeared in various publications, such as The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Times, New Republic, Kenyon Review, and Image.