Arbeit Macht Frei Inc.

by Jim Fowler
Third Place, September 2019
Judged by Lois P. Jones

Parcels of parchment, stacked
solidly. Work lives laminated
in layers for my perusal.

Condensed people, clamoring
in bold indented lines, calling
attention with typographic tricks.

Cattle car choice, choosing
one life, round-filing others.
Fascist dirty work, coldly done.

The chilling concision with which this poem is rendered draws us into its factoried rhythm and asks us to think not only of what the significance of the German phrase has come to mean in the post-Nazi era but the choices imbedded in our society. The “my” in the first strophe alludes to various possibilities. Here the conceit favors printerly allusions alongside Holocaust images with its mention of “bold indented line(s)” and “round-filling” which adds to the poem’s emotional detachment. Part precision, part enigma, this short poem has done its work. --Lois P. Jones