Culture

The Chosen Ones

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Jennie Mintz


The angel of death
picked his specimens
with a white gloved hand
while whistling
Mozart or Wagner.
After experimenting,
he pinned back the wings
of their souls,
like butterfly specimens:
each number accounted for,
classified, and shipped
to Berlin.

Even ravens were shot,
if one was seen
carrying off evidence,
a piece of human bone
in its beak.

There are different roads to heaven.
A few were played with like marbles
until white coats tired of them.
Most died on an assembly line.

The gas chamber:
An iron lung with no breath.
Children calling for their mothers
in stifled darkness,

pushing against walls,
fingernails leaving crescent moons.
Then their movement stilled
as if caught in a terrarium jar.

The Nazis saw no difference
between them,
scholars and peddlers together
with farmers and shop owners,
all of them, premature skeletons
dragged out and shifted to
the crematorium,

the same dark angel
hovering over corpses
stacked up to burn, their ashes
flying like a terrible snow,
and each one
that entered this valley
in the shadow of death
was alone.