Ordinary Men

The police battalion in Poland
was ordered (with an option to refuse)
To round up the Jews. One thousand, eight hundred
Were marched to the forest and made to lie down
Shoulder to shoulder, on the summer warm ground.
To be shot at close range.

All of them.

Fathers and mothers;
children beside them;
Fathers of fathers; mothers
of mothers’ mothers.
This was a day in July 1942.

It did not end that day was only a beginning.
Volunteering made easier by drink, the stepping up
and shooting down. Hesitation left. Another day of work to do.
More neighbors slaughtered. Five hundred
It took to murder three thousand…
Times ten and a few hundred thrown in.
One day they groaned among themselves
we can’t go on.
It’s just like harvest time, one said; worse! they all complained
Caressing their shoulders and arms.
We are too old for this a loud one said
I am thirty-seven, he is forty-two.
Who knew there were so many Jews?

Will Kirkland, 2002