The HyperTexts

My Memories of Alfred and Anita Dorn: A Tribute and Memorial
by Michael R. Burch, editor of The HyperTexts

Gallant Knight

by Michael R. Burch

for Alfred Dorn

Till you rest with your beautiful Anita,
rouse yourself, Poet; rouse and write.
The world is not ready for your departure,
Gallant Knight.

Teach us to sing in the ringing cathedrals
of your Verse, contesting Night.
Teach us to see Love's ephemeral Vision
robed in Light.

Teach us to pray, that the Word may conquer,
that the slaves may be freed, the blind have Sight.
Write the word Love with a burning finger.
I shall recite.

O, bless us again with your chivalrous pen,
Gallant Knight!

It was my good fortune to have been able to publish the poetry of Dr. Alfred Dorn and his wife Anita Dorn. I cannot claim to have known them well, but I feel that I did know them―to some extent―through their poetry. In this small memorial and tribute, I would like to share two of their poems, and let those poems speak for them and the people and poets they were ...

Travelers
by Alfred Dorn

For Anita

Hadrian built at Tivoli, near Rome,
a dream in marble and water, a paradise
that gave a second life to the art he’d seen
in regions continents remote from home.
We too combed lands beneath exotic skies,
and what we are contains where we have been.
We purchased little, though. (Why go encumbered?)
Our Tivoli is everything remembered.

Stalked by the hour which cancels every tour,
we glimpse that dark room where all travels end.
Though there’s much planet we could not explore,
much no life’s large enough to comprehend,
each packed a thousand years into three score.
Looking back, we find little we’d amend.

To read more poems by Dr. Alfred Dorn, and his bio, please click his hyperlinked name. (But I believe he would want you to read his wife's poem first!)

Bitter Snow
by Anita Dorn

Poland, January 1945

There is no sky, just blizzard and the wind.
Army in flight jams the road.
We sink into the snow,
we refugees, as we trail along in ditches.
Sometimes a red flare tears the night.

Russians have entered the city of Lodz
we left behind.
Onward I stumble
with stiff legs and frost-trimmed face.
The brittle ice
crackles beneath each step.
That is the only sound in this sad land,
this valley of the living dead,
this lumbering river moving west.
The war is coming to an end
or are we the end of war,
we who flee, each muffled
in the solitude of the snow?

A frost-crusted child lies in a ditch.
No one has ripped its clothes off—yet.
But that white-bearded man out there
has neither clothes nor boots.
Flares blanket what is left of him.
Death-sentenced no more, he is the lucky one.

No food.
But there lies a forsaken cabbage head.
It turns out to be a skull
pecked clean by ravens, without eyes
that might reproach.

Teeth rattle.
Icy blades cut into bone.
My face is gone, a blue mask.
I fall, I rise, I curse that road.
I die without being dead.

Suddenly the caravan comes to a stop.
Some tire has burst.
The war machine is stuck.
A soldier's hand hoists me into the truck,
my fingers frost-glued to my gloves.
He watches me.
We have no tears to spill,
no whispers of misfortune.
Do I remind him of his sweetheart
or his sister
or his own youth
that aged away in the jaws of war?
My bones no longer bear the memory of flesh.

They sing "Lili Marlene,"
she who always waits
at lampposts near the garden gates,
this chorus of youths older than time—
till planes pelt us with machine guns.
We hide in snow under white sheets.
God bless Siberia!

The stranger hands me socks knitted by mom,
perhaps his last.
We part namelessly.
They are all I own outside myself.

Those socks saved my life a half century ago.
Today it snows again—tiny kitten paws
upon my window pane.
I bend across the arc of years
to thank you, stranger.
I barely thanked you then.
Was it a gift of life you paid with death?
You cannot answer me.
All words lie frozen
in that bitter snow of 1945.

How many hells we have passed since then!
Does your mother know
about the gift unknown to me
she knitted just for you?
No footprint has been left behind
to tell the story of that night.

To read more poems by Anita Dorn, and her bio, please click her hyperlinked name. I have published quite a bit of Holocaust poetry over the past three decades, and in my opinion Anita Dorn was one of the better Holocaust poets. She puts us "in the moment" and requires us to see the horror of what really did happen, writing in a spare, frank, unadorned style that conveys considerable power.

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