Interview with a Zyklon B Handler

You must keep your reasons for doing it
in the forefront of your mind at all times.
There may be things you like about your victims,
things your mind will tell you to try and stop you;
there may be consequences you’d rather not deal with—
mourning families, a guilty conscience,
pleading, begging,
a sleepless night or two,
that sort of thing—
but when the moment comes to kill
the time for such considerations is past.
The death will have pros and cons,
which is why it’s always a sacrifice.
You make a compromise with the universe
when you decide to take a life:
“I’m willing to give up this person’s good traits
to get rid of their bad ones.”
So you tell yourself whatever you need to;
you do what you have to, and,
depending on how well you’ve convinced yourself,
the universe may hold you to a debt of guilt.
You may wish there was another way,
but you can’t just kill a part of someone—
you cannot choose which portions to get rid of—
you have to kill all of them,
the whole body, you understand?
You cannot kill the Jewish in someone and keep the body.
And the Jews were all one body.
There were good people,
men, women, children, even infants…
you had to kill all of them.
They were sacrifices for the future of Deutschland,
a burnt offering made to the god of the Reich.
We didn’t hate the human part of them,
just the Jewish part, and
we hated it enough—
we knew the reasons well enough—
that we were willing to sacrifice the humans
to be forever rid of the Jew.

Hard Drive

Seven years of pictures and videos—
senior year in high school, backpacking.,
two year mission, away at school,
homecomings, courtship,
engagement pictures, honeymoon travels,
first home, moving in, a floppy-eared puppy,
the pacific coast, camping in redwoods,
snorkeling in the Bahamas, pregnancy,
firstborn child, first steps,
hiking, public parks, reunions, birthdays,
anniversaries, holidays,
second child, first words, evenings playing at home—
two hundred and fifty gigabytes of memories
carefully recorded
meticulously backed up to the hard drive
whenever a device filled up.
If it had only 3 megabyte pictures
it would have held eighty-thousand of them.
Twenty-two straight hours
of seeing through lenses—
if it only took one second
to realize each moment,
put it on hold,
raise the camera,
and take the shot.
To watch it all in a slide show
would have taken days.
Days of the choicest moments of their life together,
times when they interrupted what was happening
to record a piece of it, trusting
they would always have the piece.

Seven years of life
perched treacherously on the piano.
little feet climb the bench
small hands find the hard drive
curious fingers fumble.
It tips,
it totters,
it falls to the ground.
It looks unharmed, but it’s not working.
They ship it out, they get a quote.
“Fourteen hundred dollars?!”
They think of seven years.
“We won’t miss the money,
but we will always miss the memories.”
And they’re right.
A tax return comes through.
They decide
and give the go-ahead, hoping,
willing to do without to resurrect
the memories.
Weeks pass, an email comes:
the drive is broken beyond repair—
and seven years go out with the trash.

Campus Tree

It grew in the space between walkways
where students shuffled past year round
hurrying to classes, learning
to fit into their chosen professions—
but the tree didn’t fit in. Not anymore.
It leaned too far south, they said,
and its grasping fingers had claimed
too much of the campus sky.
On a warm day in spring before its leaves budded,
a worker drove slowly to the spot
in crowds that broke around the service car.
The man stepped out and spat on the ground,
scrutinizing the trunk and branches.
He moved around the tree, peering down the walkways,
to see how it measured up to the others in its row.
More campus workers came during classes
and threw red ropes up the leaning trunk.
They hacked and hauled off the abnormal branches,
checking their work against the row
until the tree earned a passing grade.