(for Aaron Kramer)
If one country does it, my friend,
Weep, for it is the world that does.
Your tears tell me you comprehend—
Oh, what should have been! Oh, what was!
If one country hunts its own blood,
If ever its countrymen heard
One gallows gasp, one lash, one thud,
If one country banned but one word,
It is the world and every soul
That is burdened by the great wail,
Though most don’t know it. The poet
Drifts like bright birds on a white sail
Stained red by all the words he bled
And those who sanctioned his acclaim,
Who spread her words and got her read;
Together, all gave us our name.
And you wonder of your ladder,
Ask yourself what is man to do,
And repeat that it won’t matter,
But, Aaron, it does, as do you.
You saved a language once thought lost,
You fought for justice in your yard,
You kept alive the Holocaust,
And you taught us all to stand guard.
These things, I’m sure you shall agree
Are bigger than the words you wrote,
Though each bright bird that you set free
Returns to us an antidote.
If one country does it, my friend—
Reads your words, remembers your name,
Your bright birds, like you, will ascend
To where there’s no pride and no shame.
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