After they shut the door – Poem by John C. Mannone

and turned out the lights,
I heard my mother pray
with all the others.

The room stank
like stables. Foul air
burned my nostrils.

Soon, moans replaced
the prayers. I wondered
about the promised water.

When the valves creaked
open, I felt no water,
only something invisible

on my skin. We were naked
as the truth that could not be
hidden any longer.

My mother squeezed me
to her bossom—I never liked
the smell of almonds.

The last thing I heard was
the sweet sound of violins,
the trumpeting of angels.

First published in A Quiet Courage: A Journal of Microfiction and Poetry in 100 Words or Less (November 2015).

Author’s Notes: The order to exterminate the Jews was signed in July 1941. At Triblenka II, the path leading from the undressing barracks (many were fooled into thinking they would be getting hot showers) through the forested area into the gas chambers was cynically called die Himmelstraße (the road to heaven). But the killing process at Treblinka—suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning—differed significantly from the method used at Auschwitz and Majdanek, where the poison gas was hydrogen cyanide (which has the smell of almonds).

John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone has work in Artemis, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene's Fountain, Intima, Eye To The Telescope and others. He’s the winner of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and the recipient of two Weymouth writing residencies. He has three poetry collections:Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) was featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing), forthcoming in 2018, uses science metaphors for love-related poems. He’s been awarded the 2017 Horror Writers Association Scholarship, two Joy Margrave Awards for Nonfiction, and nominated for several Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN.

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