History’s Prisoner

By Jason Deiss

Six decades

this photo has hung,

black and white,

amongst its peers.

Each picture’s captions

expand into posters

that paper the room

detailing the frozen moments.

Six decades,

his bones and tendons

have shine through skin,

knuckles

and ribs

prominent.

Hooked to the ceiling,

strappado’d elbows

pull shoulders

into twin,

skin-coated spires.

His head hangs in profane prayer.

There is nothing peaceful

about his face,

its jaws frozen

in a scream

that no longer echoes.

Dogs,

knobby and frail,

are stilled mid-leap:

their teeth sink

into his abdomen and legs.

Dark dots and lines

sketch down,

to drip and pool

on the still-stained

concrete.

In the grey-dot background,

men watch, well fed

and safe.

A banner on the railing

reveals a twisted cross.

I stand among the ghosts

that trailed my grandfather

through six decades.

My fingers rest on the protective glass

as I fight awe,

for the survivors,

and revulsion

that this was truth.

Nobody

who has been here

will ever forget

this hole into Hell:

Dachau.

Darwin Lippincott hardly spoke about his time in the armed forces. He was an electrical engineer for the U.S. Air Force during World War II. The only time I was able to get him to say anything about it was in the summer of 2005, six months before he died. I was going on a tour of Europe, and when he asked about it, I let him know we would be stopping at Dachau. He only had one thing to say, and as I stood in the converted cafeteria, staring at the pictures, I could hear his voice rumble off the walls, saying: “We helped clean out the camps. I’ve been there, and they show it through rosy-colored glasses. They have to.”

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Categories: Issue 3, WWII | Leave a comment

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