The Books Left Behind

Old_book_gathering

By Remi Mathis (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

 

I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen

Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They left the things they could not carry

They left the past behind

 

Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They lost their loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

They left the past behind

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home

 

They lost loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates

 

Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

I hear them calling to me

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates

They shout and cry, do not forget

 

I hear them calling to me

The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

They shout and cry, do not forget

These spirits of the past

 

The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

Objects of the departed

These spirits of the past

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope

 

Objects of the departed

Held here by shadows and memories

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope

I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen

 

Never forget

 

I was inspired by this article about a Czech schoolhouse still filled with the books of Jewish families forced to leave in 1942—most of them killed in Auschwitz. Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) was May 5.  I thought of the rise in hate crimes, genocide, and all of the refugees who now are forced to leave their homes because of war and hate. Then I read this story about Syrian refugees in Canada who are helping the people who have had to evacuate their homes because of the massive fires in Alberta, and I realize that there are still good people and people who believe in doing good.

©Merril D. Smith, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “The Books Left Behind

  1. Both the image and the poem are powerful reminders of a sad history. I saw the movie The Book Thief and remember reading a book with a similar theme, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

    On an entirely different note: Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. Thanks, Marian. I’ve read both books. The idea of coming across a schoolhouse holding so many books of people who were killed–it just really struck me. So many levels.
    Hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day, too!

  3. Merril, this is a poignant, lovely post. The poem was vividly real and felt personal, especially the references to cast-offs. I also read THE BOOK THIEF and touched by the similarities in theme and time. This is such a necessary reminder.

  4. Thanks Merril – this resonates very strongly with me – all those ghosts, unlived lives; or faced with dreadful trauma, leaving their homes of origin because of war in their homeland … I saw a clip on CNN of that young woman in Alberta who had left her own war torn country and was now fleeing fires in her new home – and extending a helping hand to the natives of Alberta. So, for me, despair mixed with hope and knowing that there are good people in this world …

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