Volume 27, Number 3

When We Were Put in Camps

My first camp was spare,
Double bunk beds, thin mattresses,
The call of a loon from the lake.
I got up at four to muck out stalls.
My boyfriend kissed me
after the square dance.

This is not about that camp,
where lanyards were an option,
and swimming was not.
This is about the litany of horrors—
Dachau, Sobibor, Auschwitz,
a roll call of infamy.

This is about the dark swallows
like avenging angels
circling the smokestacks.
About thin potato gruel in cracked cups.
About bald skeletons in filthy rags
digging their own mass graves.

Do not be fooled again.
Their people are our people.
The lamp lifts for all of us.
Hijabs that cover the hair
also cover the need of aching hearts.

If you build camps again,
one day they will come for you,
they will come for us.
And I will not be there
with my small poem as warning,

for it will already have been burned.

—Jane Yolen