Flowering Chestnut Trees, Auschwitz

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
Honorable Mention, May 2016
Judged by Joan Colby


Flowering chestnut trees foam
with blossoms, the heavy sighs
of the sea pouring through the branches

as we lean against our spades.
When an SS officer glances
in our direction

we furiously pick
at dusty scabs where potatoes
are to be planted.

We break for dinner,
soup so thin it could have been ladled
from a rain barrel.

At dusk we shuffle back to camp,
past the station with its piles
of luggage, purses, furs…

Every day is the same, Albina,
but at night I dream of you,
and in the morning it helps to know

you’re alive, working in the fields.
Your shaved head beading
with sweat, I pray you can steal

time in the shade of these chestnuts
–like school girls on holiday,
sporting white flowers
in their hair.


Expertly written reflection on how beauty can survive in the human heart despite the worst circumstances. --Joan Colby

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