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Please be aware that some people may find the subject and treatment in this poem disturbing. One note on content: Zyklon-B was used in the gas chambers.


Fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
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The End of History

by Ken Sanes

This is the end of history.
It begins with an explosion
and a blinding flash of light
as a fireball forms over the center of a city.
Almost immediately it sets in motion
a massive shockwave,
along with crushing winds and searing heat
as everything around it
is disassembling, dismembering, and breaking down.
Buildings are crushed and torn apart.
Cars are lifted up and hurled through the air.
Roads melt away as fire spreads
through what is left of the city, and fire
links up with fire. Similar scenes
are repeated across the globe
as people flee from cities and crowd into shelters
in a desperate attempt to stay alive.
You are among those trying to protect yourself.
You are standing in a school basement,
packed in with your neighbors,
using a flashlight to push back the darkness.
As you stand there, waiting for the cataclysm
that hasnít yet arrived in your city,
you now fully understand that this
is what humanity has made of history.
This is what it was like
when you were stripped of your clothes
and locked in a room
as the Zyklon-B pellets were poured
through openings in the ceiling.
And you can still remember the people around you,
sobbing and crying out in terror
as they desperately tried to escape
and fell to the floor.
This is what it was like when you were 
lying on the ground, calling for help
in Bosnia and Rwanda,
and at Hiroshima and James Island,
but no one came to save you
or witness your passing.
Now you are in a school basement
where people are at a loss,
uncertain what they should say or do.
As many of you look away, distracted,
and listen for any sound from outside,
someone starts to give a speech
and tells you the worst will pass you by,
and you will emerge stronger than before.
But you already know the truth:
the worst will not pass you by;
you will not emerge stronger than before
because this is the cremation of the living;
it is the last hour, when your ashes
will be carried away by hurricane-like winds.
Many people, elsewhere, will be less fortunate.
They will escape the initial destruction
only to discover that their bodies
have been infiltrated by a poison
that canít be sensed or seen.
They will suffer fever and nausea;
they will lose their hair; their skin will peel away
and they will begin to bleed
as their bodies cease to function.
And some will go mad,
as a dwindling number of survivors
turn into hungry ghosts haunting a cold Earth.
Yes, this is the end of history. This is the time
of mass graves when the cities of the dead
-- Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Buchenwald,
Bełżec, and Dachau -- rise amid the destruction,
nesting in the smoke and flying debris.
This is the time when thousands of years of memory
are ground into a fine dust,
and the innocent suffer along with the guilty.
Yes, this is the culmination
of the Battle of the Somme and of Gettysburg,
Marathon, Megiddo, and the killing fields of Cambodia,
because this is the end that history has been moving to.
The time has arrived. A fireball fills the sky,
and a cloud is forming over the chaos on the ground
as the faces of the people around you
are frozen in terror and expectation.
No rescue party can save you. This is the time
of black rain and the reign of death. This is the time
when a blank expanse comes after history.

 

 


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Image: Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (The Prison, prison for life. Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_Prison%2C_prison_for_life._(396490276).jpg

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