Domenic J. Scopa




for Martín Espada

Past the gate where convoys spilled
their cargo of prisoners,
and concrete cells
too narrow to sit down,
and rooms where doctors
tried to calculate
the amount of pain
the body would take
before it gave out,
and the double fences
where guards patrolled
with Dobermans
for runners brave enough
to risk the razor wire,
where the condemned listened
to the inmate band perform
on execution mornings,
there is a swimming pool
on the commandant’s estate
at Terezín.

Here the officers would congregate
for barbeques, here the splash
of sunburnt children.
The commandant would coach
his son−kick your feet,
turn your head to breathe

would daily throw
a son and father
into the pool,
saying to them: whoever kills
the other will live,
and toss them 2x4s.
Here his wife served
homemade cookies
to the winner.

When the crematorium whistle
cried out, and the sound
pelted tree leaves,
the swimmers would dive
below the surface, touching
the bottom of the clear,
soundless world.

There is a swimming pool
on the commandant’s estate
at Terezín−white tiles,
white steps−where human beings
would plunge and wade
until they dissolved forever,
vanished like the blood
of fathers spilling
in chlorinated water.