A Lesson of Remembrance
by Jenna Knowles
This poem received runner-up honors in last year's competition:
The air seemed congested and thick, as if each breath taken should have been rationed for the benefit of the group.
The day was at a halt, time frozen within four walls of my classroom.
The grave sincerity of expression possessed by my teacher's face,
masked his glazed eyes on the verge of tearful rage.
Not a hint of his typically dashing smile persisted.
I sat bewildered of his mood,
and of the unspoken weariness that enveloped the room.
My chair felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable beneath my body.
Written in white chalk, standing out from the blackboard was:
and never before had I seen or heard that word.
Clearing his throat as if it were a method to fine-tune the emotion in his voice, my teacher began:
Nazi Germany anti-Semitism Concentration Camps thin faces dry mouths Hitler Six million Jews systematically murdered the smell of burning flesh fenced in stripped of human rights soft faces of children separated the cries of desperation random fire a common bond of a belief system too healthy to purge too passionate to forget.
And then I search through chambers of unrequited emotions to calm my spirits, and settle my stomach,
of history unanswered,
of rage and passionate hate capable by my own species.
I sat uncharacteristically silent among my eighth-grade peers,
angered for never knowing,
baffled of its truth.
I became convinced that darkness walked this earth with a swastika patched gravely on arm, and ignorance thriving, multiplying within each pore, cell, and heartbeat they possessed.
My eyes opened that day,
wider than ever before,
to a world capable of hurt
but never lacking of courage.