A Poem by Sam Sax

Turns out

all the holocaust books we read
in grade school weren’t enough.
the class outraged, youth shouting
never again. in the texts i became

brave, resistance child, stalking
the night’s antique shadows, disproving
a devil’s arithmetic, lettering every star.
easy to be righteous in the face

of tyranny so dead, the terror’s just
an old rope of letters, a photograph
developed in a darkroom, the tattoo
on a family member’s leathered arm

but even he smiles as you dance
around like the goofy animal you are.
what then when the terror lives?
when the cabinet’s filled with poison bread?

when they come for my friends,
when they come to my bed, when
they come, they come. come stars
to guide our meat across the night’s

opera of skulls. come letters brave
enough to harvest joy from the coming
darkness. come art sharp as a knife
tearing the blood from the white

in our flag. you can say there is no road
map for the red mattress, for the police
-bag forced over a chanting head. but look
to any history & there’s the path

an outraged flood, a million bodies
in the street, a fence between blood & money,
a government shaking. for our lives & our love
we must do all we can before we’re forced

back below the floorboards.

Sam Sax is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series & “Bury It” (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & The Michener Center for Writers.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.