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"... one of the best overviews of the German occupation of Poland. This book explains how it felt to live under the Nazis. The underground press, underground schools, boycotts, posters, attacks on SS officers, plays and movies, cafe life: these details paint a priceless picture." Steven Lee Wiggins

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A Good Death

My father says

in time he'll learn

to listen to the Polonaise

and not hear Sikorski

or Warsaw, the hollow surge

and dust of German tanks,

only Chopin,

his staff of clean notes

and precise legato.

His dreams will be

of crystalled trees,

papered gifts

in red half-light,

the smell of warm sheds

and girls drawing milk

from waiting cows.

The snow will fall

and go unnoticed.


This poem is from a book of poems, The Language of Mules, that I published about my parents' experience as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and displaced persons after the war.

One of the last poems in the book is about mother's recollections of the liberation of the camp, and the period immediately following the liberation. Let me know what you think.

John John Z. Guzlowski
English Department Eastern Illinois University
Charleston, IL 61920


i am
blue and white striped
with a yellow star and a tattoo
of death
shower in fire
with my brothers hand in mine
he knows of no jew or catholic
muslim or christian
he knows only
that he wants to live
and i
i cannot comprehend
i cannot understand
i cannot forget what i have never known
i shovel the ashes of the death
with the "why" tearing at me
with the "why" burning me
with the "why" tattooed in the fire
of my
and what have they known
but pain and suffering?
what have they become
but hunted and afraid
what will be left
but ashes and debris
i wear the blue and white stripes of persecution
i shovel the ashes of the dead
i carry the tomorrows
that were burned
the hopes
that were shot
the dreams
that will never be
and i am a prisoner to what i have never known to the gate of that eternal night
born to chains, born to suffer
born to 1000's of years
of containment
haunted by the agony
of the dead
the guilt
of the living
i am
forsake me not
for it is the doom of man
that he forgets

(c) 1993 Eric Sander Kingston


My father, Jan Guzlowski, was born outside of Poznan, Poland, in 1920. In 1940 he was taken into Germany as a slave laborer. My mother, Tekla Hanczarek, was born west of Lvov, Poland in 1922. In 1942 she was taken into Germany to be a slave laborer. My parents met in 1944. After the war they married and remained in Germany until 1951. That year, my parents, my sister, Donna, and I came to America as Displaced Persons.