They marched them out and made them stand, like cattle,
silent in the rain, the men,
the women and the children,
made to watch the chosen hanged
then made to dig the graves.
They made them watch the boy
his feet pummeling the empty space below,
so small he strangled on the rope half an hour, maybe more.
One man asked in anger,
Where is God now.
Encased in glass, the bits of cloth lay in neat rows,
Jews yellow, brown for gypsies, homosexuals pink—
I left and paced the hall, tried to go back in but the air felt thin and sick—
in the library next door I nodded to the woman at the desk
grabbed a book and stared at words,
ashamed of both my struggle and my tears.
The woman at the desk was crying too.
A year ago, she said, she'd been assaulted,
raped, for months all she felt was rage.
Friends tried to help and gave advice
but nothing made the anger go away.
She held her hands open out to mine,
and said she watched me in the hall,
watched me try
and something brought the tears
that made the anger start to fade.
We stood in silence,
holding hands across the desk.
I don't know her name and I haven't seen her since.
But that morning,
in the Holocaust museum,
she and I were perfect and alive and we were real.
Now I know why one man answered,
There is God,
and pointed to the boy.