+With Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr of Auschwitz+
As I watched the tattoo ink needled into each left wrist,
I saw them 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 them brand this son 1 – – – 0.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 1.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 2.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 3.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 4.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 5.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 6.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 7.
I saw them brand this son 1 – – – 8.
I saw them 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.
They mocked and scoffed
doubt upon them
in their taunting shadows
of the true reckoning.
But it was not yet
the Judgement of Doom
which awaits them still.
The enemy that resides imprisoned,
bound in hellfire’s shadows,
the shattering of a non-existence
bears false witness, bound in adamantine chains
against the failure of the false rebellion
against God’s Throne of creation–
against His existence and ours, too.
Finally, I saw them brand
this son, also,
of a Mother:
Prisoner “1 6 6 7 0.”
When I saw them line us up,
I saw them choose,
a father to be among those of us
who would be punished
for escape attempts that were not
theirs or ours. I saw the 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 by begging.
I stepped forward and begged
to take the 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 through eyes of 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 turn
to 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.