September 1st, 1939 

If those who do not know history are doomed to repeat themselves, we are in a tornado. Turning vicious cycles. The history denied, taboo, forgotten. The holocaust never happened. But it did. September 1st 1939 was a warm summer’s day. The sun shone on armies poised to shoot and kill, cities turned to rubble at will, but not Gods. The day is September 1st 1939 and Poland will be invaded by Germany today. We cannot stop it. We can only wait and listen until the first gun is fired. A world at war with worlds, 72 million people gone, 72 years ago, one million corpses each year until this day, September 1st 1939, Poland was invaded while children played in the park.  And I could try to tell you the facts, how ghettos were built, how guns were shot, how Jewish twins were torn apart and reattached to see if they could live, but facts are cold. Dead cold. All I can let you do is climb my family tree in hopes you will feel that warm summer’s day. But you say it never happened. September 1st 1939 is forgettable. Maybe if I took out my wallet and showed you my aunts and uncles and cousins I never got to meet, the family whose branches were cut off and shaved of its seeds, maybe if I showed you their faces, you’d see, “they have my eyes, they have my blood.” But it was their eyes and blood that cursed them, so let me unlock my shylocks and say “hath not Jew eyes, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons?” Because bullets would kill you too. My grandfather never knew freedom until it was taken away from him, he never knew how much he cherished the hair at the back of his head until a gun barrel was burnt into his skull and he never knew heartache until his brother died in a tactical aerial strike. The tactic, demoralize. The strike, to my grandfather’s heart. How can you deny that? See most alcoholics are in denial too but what if I took you to Auschwitz, would that sober you up? A shot of history never hurt it killed idiocy and bigotry. What if we held hands in Auschwitz and I showed you the mounds of hair piled, the gas chambers that are still stained with blood, the wired fences that held back my family and said, “they have my hair, they have my blood.” Do we deny bloodshed because this is as raw as war gets but you want more? As if poppies were enough but my family never died in rosy, red fields, they died in grey camps, separated into ash as if they could be forgotten. But ash floats like feathers.  They are my angels watching over me. We cannot forget their sacrifices because in their blood our own trees take root. So thank you, aunts, cousins, grandparents, I will never meet, every day, I will walk on your history. Grow, Zahkor Al Tichkah. Remember, never forget.


Oskar Niburski is a slam poet from Hamilton, Ontario. He is receiving a combined honors in Chemistry and Arts & Science at McMaster University. He is on the Burlington Slam Team which is competing at the nationals for Canadian poetry, the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word taking place in Toronto this October.

Listen to the audio: oskar-september 1st 1939