Jerome Rothenberg: At the Hotel Monopol

In Breslau

PROEM [1988].   It was raining when we got to Wroclaw (Breslau), the miles from Auschwitz bringing back the memories of what had happened there.  Traveling with our son we had made reservations for a single suite at the Hotel Monopol, but when we pulled in, the hotel could only come up with two separate rooms.  After a while, though, the desk clerk said that they had found a suite for us that was free.  An elderly bellhop carried our bags up the central flight of stairs, threw the big doors open, put our bags down on the floor, & asked me with a little smile, “And do you know who slept here?” Then he answered his own question: “Hitler!—And he made a speech from that balcony.”  After which  he turned & closed the doors behind him, leaving us to think again about our fate & theirs.


in the room

where Hitler slept

dreams didn’t come

but sounds

broke from the walls


& cracked

then crackled

made us stare down

past our feet

the dance beginning


while over our heads

the lights would flicker


brought to life

we stepped out


on his balcony

& hailed the crowds

hard faces


theirs like ours


our fingers flat

above our lips

looking like hairs

bunched up

touched by his tongue


the rain falls
from iron boxes
the dead outside the ring
surround us

cousins fallen


where the rain

like tiny knives

opens their wounds


children & rain

the redfaced killers

reach up to the man

the victims without faces

broken underfoot



I hadn’t been there

where the lines of gymnasts

march to the sounds

of open flesh


for them his face

is golden

old as time & echoing

the cry of what can never

be reborn