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Lightning and Ashes Paperback – March 10, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
our age. This is apt praise for a true poet whose words are simple,
straightforward, and sing with raw power. Guzlowski's parents met in
Hitler's labor camps and survived to build a life out of "lightning
and ashes." This book is his testament to them.
In the prologue poem, "My Mother Reads My Poem 'Cattle Train to
Magdeburg'" the poet's mother shares a few of her memories, but only a
Even though you're a grown man
and a teacher, we saw things
I don't want to tell you about.
Guzlowski describes his mother as "the poet of dead ends, old despairs/written in whispers..." His father is "a man held together/with stitches he laced himself."
This is a masterful work, poignant and beautiful. Highly recommended.
Just to give a flavour of the writing - an extract from I Dream of My father as He Was When He First Came Here Looking For Work:
'Remember this: this is what war is./One man has a chicken and another doesn't/One man is hungry and another isn't/One man is alive and another is dead./Isay, there must be more, and he says/"No that's all there is. Everything else/is the fancy clothes they put on the corpse.
What flows from the pages of this book are exchanges of words an creation of memories shared by the author's mother and father about these experiences. Guzlowski's poems are clear, uncluttered by needless metaphors or superimposed styles of writing. They simply speak to us of the horrors experienced and the aftermath of lives forever changed.
What the War Taught Her
My mother learned that sex is bad,
Men are worthless, it is always cold
And there is never enough to eat.
She learned that if you are stupid
With your hands you will not survive
The winter even if you survive the fall.
She learned that only the young survive
The camps. The old are left in piles
Like worthless paper. and babies
Are scarce like chickens and bread.
She learned that the world is a broken place
Where no birds sing, and even angels
Cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.
She learned that you don't pray
Your enemies will not torment you.
You only pray that they will not kill you.
or from the conversations with his father he writes:
What My Father Ate
He ate what he couldn't eat,
what his mother taught him not to:
brown grass, small ships of wood, the dirt
beneath his gray dark fingernails.
He ate the leaves off tress. He ate bark.
He ate the flies that tormented
the mules working in the fields.
He ate what would kill a man
in the normal course of his life;
leather buttons, cloth caps, anything
small enough to get into his mouth.
He ate roots. He ate newspaper.
In his slow clumsy hunger
he idid what the birds did, picked
for oats or corn or any kind of seed
in the dry dung left by the cows.
And when there was nothing to eat
he'd search the ground for pebbles
and they would looses his saliva
and he would swallow that.
And the other men did the same.
Poetry so seemingly simple expresses more anguish, more ache, more compassion than a hundred thick historical novels about the war. The final long poem 'The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald' is unbearably painful to read, but read and remember it we must so that this can never happen again. Grady Harp, May 11