Without black and white
Where do you draw the line
and with what shade of grey?

“A rose by any other name”
you know the rest.
But strip the thorns,
tear off the leaves
denude the flower
and break the stem –
Is it still a rose?
And if perchance such a deformity
could live and perpetuate,
would we still line up
in stores to buy
because it is, or was
(or is it?)
a rose.

When grey is more acceptable
than black or white
how can I know when you stopped
being a rose?
Was it when the thorns were stripped
and you said “Heil” ?
Or was it when the leaves were torn
and you took a position
in “Rehabilitation”?
When did they deflower you,
or did you do it to yourself?
Rejecting black, hoping for white
but lost in greys,
“this one will live and that one die.”

I look at your picture.
So plaintively your bewildered face
cries out
“But once I was a rose.”
“Yes,” I say,
“You were a rose, but are a rose
no more.”

 

This poem was inspired by a picture I saw of two female German soldiers in a concentration camp being arrested by the Allies. I have never forgotten the look on the face of one of the soldiers—one that seemed to me of total bewilderment.