An Open Letter to the Unacknowledged One

(The Anonymous Voice from the Camps)

Original Text: 

Surviving the Censor: The Unspoken Words of Osip Mandelstam, ed. Allan Briesmaster (Hamilton, Ontario: Seraphim Editions, 2006): 54.

1There was no prayer in the camps. Hope and belief had
2been scorched out of every man long ago. It was so
3obvious it stuck out like the bones that protruded from
4the faces of prisoners as they waited for their time to
5expire, for a finger to be pointed, and for their bodies to
6fall. The end was so close but we were carried away on a
7caravan of days and it seemed as if we would live
8forever. During this period a new form of petitioning the
9Unacknowledged One was created. Those who were too
10weak to recite their request did so by urinating into the
11frozen snow. They left one line to represent a stick man
12and a second line crossing it out.
13we are the drowning men
14who have never spoken your name
15our lives ended long ago
16when we were pulled from our homes
17our bodies have been slow in receiving the message
18they fight on without knowing
19we are waiting in these camps
20for death to arrive
21we have no fears
22except that we may survive
23to meet another day another memory
24if you are the Ruler the Power and the Source of Mercy
25please, please, take us now
26even in this dark place
27we have never acknowledged you
28or lit a clump of wax
29to illuminate your name
30our voices are strange to your ear
31but this is not a prayer but a plea
32from men who have reached the bottom
33and continue to drown
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2012
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Rafi Aaron 2006. Published by permission of the poet and Seraphim Editions.