24 April 2010 | Vol. 10, No. 1
This is the story of my grandfather Benjamin Simonds
who survived Auschwitz. He kept
a scrap. Torn label of a can of con-
densed milk. He took dictation. He
dictated. He flipped the dialectic flapjack. He was
a gambling man. People think prisoners don't gamble.
Gamblers are always and only prisoners.
Once he told me that the spine is a prison.
To gamble, he said, you need to lose
The following is a translation of that scrap by his wife of over fifty years, Nellie Simonds:
November 8, 1944.
"Background works at sawing off my right foot, my foot
a growling ground down
to bits of Timbuktu. It is full of sun, this slit into the
out there. Duckrabbit.
duckrabbit. duckrabbit. Into is so bright it will make
you vomit. I am the figure, a
screwed figment, a reckoning shade, life's filaments, spare
statement. I've been working on my tunnel
vision morphs portals lined with dried corn."
The entry abruptly cuts off here.
Sandra Simonds, his granddaughter
(who also happens to be a corrections officer in Macon, Georgia) decides
to continue the family saga.
She spends many a night
in the attic. She takes dictation. She
dictates. People think poets
don't gamble. Poet are always
and only gamblers.
The following was translated back into German by Sandra Simonds, the author of this poem.
November 8, 1988.
"Across from Auschwitz they are building a mall. Upon entering the mall
trees form completely
from the air-conditioning system. Perchance you'll purchase a
Duckrabbit duckrabbit duckrabbit?
I was square dancing to depression, screwing
around with the century's broken links when, all of the sudden,
because man can only be one
animal at a time and because one animal
can only be two men
at a time and because we take one eye
from an animal and one
eye from man, I was ordered to build
who recedes into the ground down
background from a can of condensed milk and dried ears