A Broken Sun

You must understand
That it is easier than you think
To commit acts of evil.

Take myself for instance.
In medical school I dreamed of
Becoming a doctor
Among villagers in the remote mountains

Of Japan,
Such simple folk who
Lacked adequate access to
The marvels of modern medicine.

But then the war,
And China.
How can I put it?
I lost this ability
To imagine a softer world.

The strict, enforced obedience
To the leviathan of flame,
The soul-rotting acceptance
That this world was alight,
And life was the fuel.

And then, my own chosen profession,
As one who deals with the body
Like an instrument to be fixed,

Somehow this too inured me
To the obscenity of pulling
Apart humans for the sake of
My nation’s science.

The rot had set into the living,
Into those of us charged with
Ameliorating ancient suffering.
We told ourselves,

In dissecting our enemies
We were completing a noble quest,
To cure the bodies that mattered,
Our own, of tragic diseases.

At first, I will admit,
I felt squeamish,
Hands trembling as I cut open
Some poor soul, un-anesthetized,

His pleading, pitiful cries
That turned guttural at the sight
Of his own insides.
Who wouldn’t be shaken?
I was still human then,
Even after all I had seen.

But after two, then three, then four
My hand became steady,
As cold and precise as the instruments

It clasped.
Had I gained some new plane of
Was I beyond good and evil?

What, after all, was life
But the fuel for something
Incomprehensible, mysterious,
Beyond all individual pain,

Propelling us all
Into a future vaster and more
Terrible than a devouring sun?
Was I not merely an instrument
Of this god?

But then suddenly,
With blinding violence
That sun arrived,
And the grandeur was gone in an instant.

No longer a surgeon to the
Imperial Army of Japan,
To the men of steel and death,
I returned to Japan.

I set up a quiet and humble
Practice in the remote
Mountains among the villagers.
I specialised in treating the

Children of farmers,
Tuberculosis cases,
Whooping cough,
Sprained ankles.

I had a normal kind of life.
But I was no longer human,
And when I placed my stethoscope
To the chest of one of my simple hearted patients,

Even without a word,
They recoiled instinctively from my touch.

Silberbauer Comes for Anne

After all the necessary investigations,
Interrogations, stamps on the
Relevant memorandum,
He followed the scent,

A man well trained in the art
Of ferreting out survivors,
Down the cobbled and crumbling streets
Of war-torn Amsterdam.

And he found that family,
Huddled in their tight annex,
Eking out life on the
Hemorrhaging trickle of goodwill,

Still left in the dry humps of nations,
And he was the spanner poised over the faucet.

And this was how they met death’s bureau,
Buttoned down, good-natured fellow.
Sure he tossed things around,
Hunting for clues,
Or just following standard procedure,

Lit a cigarette, flipped out his notebook
While the family were escorted away,
While he remarked to the man of the house,
My your daughter is pretty isn’t she.

And that was the long and the short of it.
He sent the pretty one off
To the emaciated pit of his awful century,
To starve on a bunk, covered in scabies.

But he’d raised the alarm,
He’d done a fine day’s work,
filed them away, a report in a cabinet,
A stamp in the relevant corner.
Soon after the war he was employed

In intelligence,
a hunter of radicals against the authorities,
A smart shirt and a tie
And a clean shaven face.

And he read that small book,
in his hours of leisure,
In which she’d gone deep
Inside her own annex
And found the horizons of herself,
In the center of a noose.

And he was the noose,
And her diary ended where he’d picked it up
And let it fall carelessly to the floor,
For it contained nothing of importance to the state.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014