The wind is singing in the wire at Dachau
and whipping up the gravel in the square.
What song is this the wind sings in the wire
at Dachau? And what are the words?
A thriving town, famous for
its industry and commerce
Coloured pictures of a prosperous town
with men and women busy, centuries bound
devoutly to commercial life, decent
men and women who work hard, respect
the laws and raise their young in love of order,
industry and quality of product. And
beyond the town the road that leads beyond
the coloured pictures, beyond the words—But these
are not the words the wind is singing in the wire.
A short bus journey to
a place of historical interest
The road leads out beyond the solid buildings
and the intersections and the trams that clang
on corners and the statues of forgotten
worthies and the parks where mothers walk
their children and at last—The railway sidings,
high perimeter fencing and the watchtowers
squatting watching as we pass and talk
dies out because there is this plaint, this sound
of pleading in the wire and we are listening
for the words as if we know there must
be words and we must hear them. Must.
Meet at the main gate in one hour
and please stay with the group
Here, the skeletal outlines of the huts
that housed them. Here, the ovens rusted open,
bolts the colour of congealed blood. And here
the showers, echoing our silence. Here,
the square where history cast the die again
and spelled the fates of those who do, and those
to whom is done and wind whips up the gravel
at our feet, each pebble round and rattle-hard,
a kind of syllable, but not a word.
This is the museum:
No photography, please
Instruments and sacks of human hair
and photographs: a naked man submerged
in freezing water while a scientist checks
a gauge; emaciated figures on a cart
forced to serenade a friend who stumbles
towards a rope; six gypsies in a line
with shaven heads before an officer
who smokes, unbuckling his pistol. And
behind me, someone starts to cry, but softly
like the song the wind sings outside in the wire.
Please resume your seats
on the bus as soon as possible
There was a place where children’s shoes were sold
each week and mothers came to buy and asked
no questions. Are there words to tell how mothers
came each week to buy and asked no questions?
Are there words to tell how men and women
did not ask about the trains that passed
each night so full and came back empty? Tell
the sound of someone crying ? Tell the shift
of gravel in the square ? Tell the cries
of someone dying. Words to fit this song
the wind sings in the wire? There must be words.
Thank you for your co-operation.
Please remain seated on the return journey
There are no words to fit this song the wind
sings in the wire, but Dachau names the sounds.
The door slammed open: Dachau!—.
The boot slammed into rib: Dachau!—
Soldiers marching over gravel: Dachau! Dachau!—
Short abrupt command and volley: Dachau!—
This is the song the wind sings in the wire
and Dachau names the sounds but not
the words, because there are no words.