Excerpt from “Pink” by John Bonanni

I. Map

Sachsenhausen, 1940

The way it went was
first the blocks
well first the SS officers
but really know
they were barracks
that’s where we lived
but from a bird
maybe first
the barbed wire
or first the neighborhood
then the buildings with the papers
then the barbed wire
yes, the barbed wire, then us
the barracks
then the bunker
also the offices
for the
the fences were electric
then the barbed wire
which a cloud might
notice first
then the watchtowers
which would be
closer but not as much
in area, outside
the garrison zone
for the papers
then inside
for us each bunk
had first
the first tier then
the second
then the third
but first
the commandant
& next, the adjutant
& later the senior
or was it, yes it was
the senior administrative
But first the fence to
zone to us
& then the barracks
& after them
the SS guards
then the blood
against their eyes
& then the greens
& their blood
because if not our blood
then theirs because
the face always drops
because one must hide
but no first the
fence. & they were all
but first
they were all NCOs
next each block
then the camp senior
then the barbed wire
but first, no, it was not
it was not
was not was


II. Warmer Bruder

There was
is a ray
What they found
in this was
or a ray
a light how did it
together, the waves
But first, the human
first, its filthy spirit
the fire in the clay pit
If only
to stop the memory
of one’s lover
of one’s father, mother
& then to see it in
the clay pit
mound upon mound upon mound up on mound up
on that cloud,
a single ray
because the cloud was gray
covered in the
deadened spirit
there could have been
as many as
50,000 clouds,
we never dared
look up
Just that man
when he prayed
& the light came
We all looked at it
even the ones
who tried to
ignore it
the gray
the light
the ray
it was
or not a ray
just up
& the beating
for once
& he died 3 days later


IV. The New Commander

Flossenbürg, 1941

The new commander
the line
takes over
we were all in line
orders a line
I was last
orders us up straight
last in line
to stand tall
the last to speak
to push our chests orders
the longest to listen
as though a pushed chest
the listen: you filthy
chest could mean something
keep listening filthy queer
could change my
listen chest out
could change my try
speak then stick
could change my color
stick to the jaw
could change me my try
the force of the stick
as though I had not given
knocked them cold over
though my chest my lung
I waited last
chest out could change
last in line
change what
he asked me where
change where
he asked me last
changed me into a barbed wire
I said Austria
into the floor
It was the wrong answer
ground into the new language
Wrong: Ostmark the blow
change my teeth
the blood cold floor
chest out
a mirror in their dead black boots
chest in
the sentence
as though the sentence
three days hunger
could change my red mouth
in dead black days
could change my pink my



Read the rest of “Pink” in our eighth print annual, available now.



John Bonanni lives on Cape Cod, MA, where he serves as editor for the Cape Cod Poetry Review. He is the recipient of a scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a residency from AS220 in Providence, RI. His work has appeared in CutBank, The Seattle Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Prairie Schooner.

(Front page image via)

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