By Michael G. Kesler

I have lived a long and eventful life,

Four scores and a decade ago,

I burst out, loudly protesting,

My dramatic change in venue,

A maniac leader of an angry nation in my youth,

 Caused a cataclysm on the continent,

Killing six million of my people.

Hatred and wrath robbed me of home, parents, and 8,000 of my townspeople,

Drove me from country to country,

And from continent to continent,

Until, blessed, I came to this golden land.

I remember well enraged mobs ransacking our property and screaming wildly,

Jews, get out, go to Palestine!—so those who could, left the cursed land,

 And went to build their own home.

They drained the swamps and watered the desert,

Built roads, and raised crops—in one hand a shovel, in the other a gun—

And thus they revived their ancient land.

They fathered dreams and made them happen,

And became a shining, thriving example of a mighty, prosperous nation.

But angry mobs, filled with ancient loathing of Jews,

Are crying hoarsely again and again, Jews get out of Palestine!

And the continent where I was born and raised,

And whose culture I imbibed and learned

Are joining the cacophony of vile hatred,

Against the very being of my people.

False leaders of the mobs, drunk with hatred, envy, and greed,

Prepare children, with ancient rites,

For ghoulish sacrifice to the Moloch.

To kill and maim—without guilt or shame,

They blame the Jew for killing a few,

Calling it a genocide,

But barely murmur about the murder,

of a hundred thousand, many poisoned by gas.

And people in high places,

In the lands of Beethoven, Hugo, and Locke,

Deliberate and meet in committees,

But do little to the world gone insane.

Hatred, like termites, is chewing the pillars,

On which we stand and have proudly built,

Our culture, freedom, and lore,

Beware, it may crumble,

As it’s being eaten to the core.

By Michael G. Kesler

No Monuments to the Fallen in Dubno


There are no monuments to the fallen, in Dubno,

nor in any Shtetl of Belarus and Ukraine. But come and see, in the pastoral fields near Dubno,

skulls and limbs scattered in a ravine. There are no monuments to the fallen in Dubno,

no ovens, no showers, no remains of deadly gas. In my bereaved hometown of Dubno,

the SS shot and buried young and old en masse.

Shrapnelled shards of a shattered past

Sear my soul and pierce my mind.

Alas! I write these lines at life’s dusk

Our dead to honor as well as wounds to bind.

…And, also, to add wings to my humble prayer that

This stock from Sarah and Abraham begotten,

Its teachings, its culture, with pain and courage bred,

Shall not perish, nor be forgotten!

By Michael G. Kesler


Returning Home, 1945


There lived once a Shtetl here

Where I was born and raised,

On a hill, resplendent, shone the Great Synagogue

Where I chanted in choir God’s praise.

Much lore and culture flourished here

With preachers the world revered

A market thrived once in my Shtetl

And throngs who’d sell and buy

The stores had all been boarded up

The Shtetl and its people had died.

I knocked on the door of my humble home

Anxious its state to view

A man with a pitchfork sprang forth and yelled,

“Get out, you dirty Jew!”

“You are a thief, a monster!” – I fumed –

“You’ve stolen my home, you brute!”

I walked the lonely streets in despair,

Anger gripping my breast.

I met a survivor who embraced me and urged:

Go ‘n see the valley of death.”

Along the banks of the Ikva River

Beneath a rolling knoll

Skulls and limbs screamed death all around

Casting a chilling pall.

I seethed with rage as a gazed transfixed,

At the horror of the curse of old.

There, for a thousand feet and beyond,

Lay the remains of all:

My parents, grandmother, relatives, and friends

And eight-thousand sacred souls.

By Michael G. Kesler


The Day of Judgment


I had just turned sixteen – I remember it well –

I was obsessed with the thought, nagging and sweet,

to surprise my classmate Sophie and tell

I admired her and would love her forever, indeed.

I saw Sophie once and never again…

On June 22, 1941,

the world I had known turned insane,

as Hitler’s war on Russia had just begun.

On the third day of war, shocking news came

the Russians were fleeing and German tanks were near.

Then Stukkas roaring set the Castle aflame.

The day grew long, filled with panic and fear.

Yet the day was short, too short to abort

life planted firmly with patience,

sweat and blood of scores of generations.

Too short for the young to tear apart

from family, friends, and sweet ties of the heart.

Painful quarrels and bitter debate

erupted in each household, and led in dismay

to final verdicts of every Jew’s fate:

who shall leave and who shall stay,

who shall live and who shall die….

As night descended, awesome and dark,

the gates of heaven shut, and Satan’s verdict came stark:

all eight thousand would die, shot in pits,

except for a few who’d crawl out amidst

layers of bleeding, dying kin, into a jungle ruled by cruelty of chance,

hatred, violence and Death-Angel’s dance.


By Michael G. Kesler

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