Remembering a Saint


I was twelve
When I first heard of Father Kolbe…
When I first learned
Of how he offered
his life,
his love
To take a father,
A husband’s place,
In the face of death…

A memory I had kept,
Like a movie
in black and white…
of heroes and villains…
in a distant time,
from a faraway land…

Little did I know then,
as a young boy,
from a small costal town,
at the edge of Northwest Spain,
That one day
I would visit his dying place…

It was 1999
When I first walked the streets of Warsaw…
There was very little left…
Besides many commemorative plaques,
of here was…

I photographed the missing brick wall,
visited the last holding rebel place…
and scornfully looked
at the other side of the river,
where the Russian troops
waited out for their turn…

I also watched the documentary
in the cinema at the square,
behind a group of elderly American tourists,
Who I heard say…
all European cities seem to be the same…”

A few days later,
I found myself
crossing the infamous Gate…
“Albeit Macht Frei”
Work Sets You Free…

I Stood by the firing wall,
The torture holes…
With a heavy heart,
And the knowledge
that nothing would ever be the same…
I slowly entered its chamber…

Watching the wall sweat
over the crumbling paint…
As if hearing screams,
with an overwhelming anxiety in my chest,
and feeling as if a dark cloak
had just descended over my soul,
I gasped at the thought
of what we are capable of…

Few hours later,
the towering entrance of Bikernau,
the sheer dimension of the camp,
the barracks, their conditions…
There was little more I could take…
and headed back to Krakow.

To these days,
for some strange reason,
That gasping thought
has travelled through time…
it seems, to just whisper…
Remember what you saw?
Remember what we are capable of?

Yes, I remember…
But today…Above all…
What I mostly remember we are capable of…
is Father Kolbe and his act of Love…

(Xoanxo 2017)


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