Two Poems

Two flowers in a vase sitting between two walls embedded with lights meant represent deportees sent from France to Nazi concentration camps.
The 200,000 lights in the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation in Paris represent the number of deportees sent from France to Nazi concentration camps. Photo by Zak / Flickr


Martyrs of the Deportation

I stood in the Place du Notre Dame,
facing the grimace of gargoyles. I walked

East to the open space, finding the railing,
the lightest of grey cement, and my hands

opened the black iron gate where I descended
into the earth for the hidden memorial:

Granite. Tile. Jagged black sculpture. The air,
surprisingly fresh, illuminated. I found myself

in a small room, intensely long and narrow –
the parallel walls covered in backlit

dots of stone quartz, infinite tiny lights
in patterned rows of amber white.

Each dot of light for each French person
murdered in the Camps, the seemingly

endless array of them.
How can you absorb or connect it?

I stood there under the earth,
knowing what I was expected to feel.

But my heart felt nothing. I felt
nothing in my dumfounded shoes.


Even a Small Voice Can Proclaim a Treatise for the Peace We All Want but Don’t Make the Commitment For

The news is bad as the news
is always bad and getting worse,

until breathing becomes a political act.
Choosing to live is a political act.

War isn’t war until it becomes personal.
Before that, war is comfortably abstract –

a black and white photograph.
War is twelve lawyers in a room

somewhere else, while everyone else
prays for the peace we want but never get –

the peace we pray for, give belief in, but leave
our hands folded –

wanting peace, writing for peace,
praying for the world to notice,

and the world never noticing
past the distraction of its smaller gratifications,

when it only takes one of us, each of us,
to cry softly, cry loudly enough –

even a small voice, even a whisper,
even a breath.


Nicholas Samaras is the author of Hands of the Saddlemaker and American Psalm, World Psalm. Having lived in ten countries, he is currently completely a manuscript of poetry on the psychologies of exile. His essay “To Write from a Place of Permanent Exile” appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of WLT.