Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded

John Z. Guzlowski. Aquila Polonica, $21.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-60772-021-8
Guzlowski (Lightning and Ashes), a Polish-American writer born in a German refugee camp after WWII, recounts the horrible atrocities enacted upon his parents during the war in these straightforward, gut-wrenching narrative lyric poems. These snapshots of Nazi German rule illustrate that hardship didn't end with German surrender; the aftershocks radiated through successive generations. Guzlowski's simple language highlights the violence without offering any comment or consolation: "She finds her mother/ a bullet in her throat/ her sister's severed breasts/ in the dust by her feet/ the dead baby/ still in its blanket." The words fail to convey the sense of loss, but the tortured nature of the content is clear; each word means more in the sparse, unadorned language Guzlowski employs. In "What My Father Knows About Killing," he writes, "My father knows men and animals/ do not die in the same way." Similar sentiment appears in "What the War Taught Her": "My mother learned that sex is bad,/ Men are worthless, it is always cold/ And there is never enough to eat." Poems of this nature are not meant to alleviate the pain, but to help keep a record of it; to serve as a reminder that silence is not a crime, but forgetting is. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
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