La Pathétique

I put on La Pathétique
the sound invades my skin
enlarges my heart

the notes drop
into channels
of sadness

piercing
puncturing
pain

Beethoven
must have been
brokenhearted
when he wrote this sonata

I hum
I nod my head
I conduct the performance
from my car

this listening
to music
is new to me

for years
I required silence

I was listening
for murderers

I was expecting
menace

I was prepared
for peril

I was waiting
for disaster

and
couldn’t be disturbed.

— Lily Brett

An unidentified family in the Łódź Ghetto, c. 1940-1941.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Raphael Aronson

Australian poet and novelist Lily Brett was born in Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp, Bavaria, in 1946. Her parents had been living in Łódź, Poland, when the German army invaded their country. They were confined to the Łódź Ghetto for four years before being sent to Auschwitz. The couple was separated but (miraculously) survived camp and were reunited late in 1945.

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