Bio Note: I have settled in retirement on the other side of the Wall, where I now live, write, and enjoy Mexico’s rich culture.
One Day in Oswiecim*
I. It hasn’t changed. The serene green countryside reaches toward a cloudless sky, and this land could be your land. II. The oldest woman in town trembles a bit remembering an unsettling glow lighting her childhood, but this town could be your town. III. There’s a playground now on the peaceful street where ghosts were born and legends linger, and this street could be your street. IV. The women in farmhouses and tidy village homes kept the curtains drawn so the children wouldn’t see, but this home could be your home. V. The world comes in buses now. Tourists stagger through history, pausing to catch their breath, inhaling reassurance that this history will not be their history. VI. It hasn’t changed. The serene green countryside reaches toward a cloudless sky, and this land may be your land. *A small city in Poland, better known by its German name, Auschwitz. Author’s Note: This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camps by Soviet troops. “One Day in Oswiecim” was first published by the International Human Rights Art Fest.
I have seen wondrous images ghost their way toward a specter of truth or something like it while bathed in trays filled with what might have been black magic and tiny bits of time passing. I have seen the merest traces of light prophesy darkening shadows beneath the safelight and I have tasted the slow teasing impressions gathering in the chemistry like revelations even as I watch and wait, and I have remembered that this is the way revelation always comes to me—not in pixelated flashes of insight but in nine zones of emerging detail witnessed under a dim red glow. First published in Third Wednesday.
From the Copper Canyon Train
And in the end the Tarahumara are starshine. Souls spent, the ancestors take their places in the night sky capping the Copper Canyon, looking down on their people who are running still, fast and forever, up and along impossible canyon walls. Like the stars, we look, too. We imagine we see the intricate striations that tell the stories of the ancient rocks, imagine that we’ve seen the secretive, unknowable people who escaped to the canyons centuries ago, eluding conquistadores, sidestepping missionaries and miners and slavers and us, to find refuge beneath incomprehensible ledges, to hoard what mysteries they know deep inside the unfathomable Barrancas del Cobre caves. Like the Tarahumara glimpsed cliffside from the canyon’s rim or selling baskets and violins in the marketplace, we have known impenetrable walls and endless trails and deepest ravines, or so we tell ourselves. What we don’t say is that we suspect that these people we call primitive— who might run one hundred stony, barefoot miles in a day to fete Father Sun and Mother Moon with music and peyote and dance—might be winning the race. First published in Chiron Review.
©2020 Kenneth Salzmann
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