Branded [rev. 3-4-2019; third attempt]

+For Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr of Auschwitz+

As I watched the tattoo ink needled into each left wrist,
I saw you brand each father in line ahead of me,
each brother, each son, marked in line ahead of me.

the sequence succeeded
from one to the next:

I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 0.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 1.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 2.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 3.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 4.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 5.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 6.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 7.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 8.
I saw you brand this son 1 – – – 9.

A census was taken.
Ten sons of a man–
ten sons of a father–
were counted, marked–
a son was secreted away,
escaping through the currents
of Egypt in darkness.

You mocked and scoffed
doubt upon them
in this taunting shadow
of the true reckoning.
But this was not
the Judgement of Doom
which awaits you.

The enemy that you are resides imprisoned,
bound in hellfire’s shadows,
the continuation of your existence
bearing witness in adamantine chains
against your failure of your rebellion
against God’s Throne of creation–
against His existence and thus your own.

Finally, I saw you brand
this son, also,
of a mother:
Prisoner “1 6 6 7 0.”


When I saw you line us up,
I saw you choose, with them,
a father to be among those of us
who would be punished

for escape attempts that were not
theirs or ours. I saw this father
break into tears–weeping
and begging for his life

for the sake
of his ten
daughters and sons.


I, too, am a beggar.
I am loosed from all bonds to beg.
I stepped forward and begged
to take this father’s place.

When they demanded my name,
I read your tattoo to them,
stitched also upon my uniform,
so they might reckon its meaning.

At peace, I read it to them,
looking upon them with love:
that of giving myself into their hands
for a father’s will,
for our will,
my last will.

I read it aloud so they might understand
the meaning of the numbers
with which they had branded us.

I read them our will, my last testament.
The number, read aloud, is:
“I am a Catholic priest.”


Father, forgive them
for they know not
what they are doing.