Concentration

July 7, 2010
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 27, Issue 7

I can still hear the click of clue tiles

I can still hear the click of clue tiles

when they opened and closed on the game board

and the smarmy voice of the 1960s

TV host when he called out the answer.

And I remember my family playing

the same game every summer in a cabin

by the sea, a few plastic pieces missing

like uncles lost in the concentration camps.

At night I would lie awake listening

to waves crash in the distance, wondering

how the word “concentration” fit with “camps,”

but the sea never whispered the answer.

All this matters to me now because I’m back

in that seaside cabin after one more game,

and the magazine on the table

lays opened to a photo of Jewish

musicians at a death camp playing flutes

and violins while standing ankle deep

in snow. The caption says their music

formed the background for beatings and torture

and gas chamber exterminations.

But when I try to make sense of this image,

try to imagine the Old Testament

God listening from Heaven and hearing screams

syncopated with Mozart’s melodies,

when I try to imagine the thoughts

of the Jews and the German prison guards,

I become a child again, my world

as safe as a board game, my parents

carrying me into the surf, holding tight,

floating us through the breaking waves.