Mark Pawlak was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1948, into an ethnic Polish working class family and later grew up in the Boston area for more than twenty-five years. His poems and translations from the German of Bertolt Brecht and others have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

 

Like Butterflies

The Auschwitz “Angel of Death,” Josef Mengele,
would meet the trains delivering Jews to the camp
and select out from those destined for the gas
healthy pairs of twins. These he kept alive
in crowded cages fir genetic experiments
to aid him in building a master race.

He gave them chemical injections
which made many nauseous and faint, and a few
became numb when the needles were put into their spines.
Some were given transfusions of blood
from one twin to the other
or he removed parts of the sexual organs;
yet others he sterilized by radiation.

He was especially interested in the color of eyes.
If he noticed that twins’ eyes were brown
but their mother’s eyes were blue,
he might keep her alive in the cage with her children.
He would try to change their eye color
with injections of dye or with drops administered daily
that burned the eyes like acid,
and he would take blood samples from these subjects
several times each day.

One twin said she was stupefied
when ushered into Mengele’s private laboratory.
There she was an entire wall of eyes looking back at her,
human eyes of every color
mounted on the wall like butterflies.


Mark Pawlak
(After Charles Reznikoff; for Donna Brook)