Poem: Three o’clock

When the train from the city finally stopped
It was three o’clock forever:
Past and future were stolen from me.

Nobody knows my name. I do not know my name.
At there o’clock we dance in the evenings
Once the ice is broken.

At three o’clock I do not eat much
Thinking of those who must carry me
Wandering and working as this world requires.

A broken toy a rag doll
That I had loved as a child
Once bright faced, now crumpled.

By her clothes I knew it was she.
I covered her face and broken eyes
And glanced back only once.

A punch-drunk puppet in pajamas
That dreams with open eyes said,
“I hear wilderness crying in your voice”.

I had not spoken a word.


Written 1987. (Found three months ago in a pile of papers in my Dad’s attic).

This poem was inspired by an article in the Partisan Review by an ex-inmate of the Treblinka extermination camp. In an attempt to preserve the fiction of ‘resettlement’ as long as possible, the Nazis had erected a false train station. In the interest of economy, none of the machinery there actually worked, so the station clock that the victims saw on arrival was permanently fixed at three o’clock.

Much of the poem’s imagery is derived from medieval wilderness poetry, especially the description of the dead in the fourteeth century poem Sir Orfeo, lines 389-408.

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