Saturday, January 30, 2010

Justin Woo: Poem "Dear Mr. Fritzl"

Justin says of this poem: It was originally written as part of the Spoken Word Almanac Project 09. The article I read that inspired the piece is called
"Guilty Pleas in a Trial On Captivity" by Nicholas Kulish and was
published in the NYT on 3/18/09.

Dear Mr. Fritzl

"There must be some kind of way out of here.
Said the joker to the thief.
There's too much confusion.
I can't get no relief."

Dear Mr. Fritzl,
We cannot escape each other.
My imagination will not stretch
to accommodate the enormity
of your deeds. Their sharp edges
perforate the too small walls
of my mind when I attempt
to envision that tiny room
filled to bursting
with the cruel bulk of suffering
that you've inflicted.

After the third year, Elisabeth stopped screaming.
Your hand, once placed firmly over her mouth
became occupied with new violations.
Now her eyes locked
on the wood paneled ceiling,
hoping that her gaze
could burn its way through
four concrete apartment floors
to reach her memories of the
world outside of your basement.

After you stole her third child,
she stopped crying. Tears
became a language
as dead and foreign
as Sumerian, Babylonian.

She tried to look
on the bright side -
they never have to see
this sick circus,
you, ringleader
me, caged animal.

Your wife always marveled
at how much her supposed
grandchildren looked
so much like you.

She didn't realize
that she could become
adoptive mother, grandmother,
cuckold, and fool
all at once.

I pray that your children
do not inherent your megalomania
your need for control
your grasping, too-busy hands
your probing fingers.

I hope that their eyes
are like their mother's
Pupils that burn through solid stone
to touch the sky.

"I can't get no relief."

I shudder to think
what your reasons must have been
to bring your ill nineteen year old
daughter, granddaughter
to the hospital.
After letting one baby die,
compassion, a language
as dead and foreign
to you as mercy,
could not have whispered
to that rotten lump of muscle
that only the most removed
clinicians could call a heart.

I can only imagine that
when a ringleader grows tired
of one animal, he must breed
a replacement.

"No reason to get excited."

Your basement was discovered
and with it, your depravity.
Hot outrage flowed into my blood
almost as fast as chilly cynicism -
the only thing that keeps this mad world sane.

You swore you didn't know
that that baby was dying.
You swore you didn't know
that those cries meant hunger, fear, pain.
You swore you didn't know
and part of me believes
that might have been the truth.
How could you, of all people
understand human suffering,
a language as dead and foreign
to you as love?

"There are many here among us
who believe that life is but a joke."

And we're still laughing,
trying to transmute shock
into numb indifference.
When they marched you
in front of judge, jury,
too bruised and lacerated
to be astonished by atrocity
you held a binder over your face.

I can't imagine
what you thought you were hiding,
your dissipated jowls
hanging loosely over ancient bone,
framed by hawkish brows
and eyes Hitler's favorite shade of blue.

"So let us not talk falsely now
the hour is getting late."

Maybe you were hiding
something else - that true horror
that could only be caught on film,
in motion (the path of a bullet,
the passage of time in captivity,
the devil's laughter).
I would thank you
if I thought you had actually
saved us from anything.

Mr. Fritzl,
they're called crimes against humanity
because you've killed us all.
In this world, Josef,
your world,
we have all become Elisabeth.
our collective imagination
is forever locked
in your basement,
never again to see the sky,
freedom a language
as dead and foreign to us
as forgiveness.

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