Ladies and Gentlemen Lunch is Served

    By Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

    The well-groomed student
    Formal yellow jacket, white shirt black pants bow tie
    Starched white napkin over his left arm
    Announces lunch at the College of Catering
    Where I teach English in a pristine environment,
    ‘Ladies and Gentlemen lunch is served.’ He says
    No pistol by his side, no baton thrust into my ribs
    No barking command for immediate compliance.

    A flash of white sarees, black pants and white shirts
    Move in animated chatter
    Professional dress as per the code
    Rushing up the stairs to the dining room
    Following the tempting aromas.
    Taking our seats quickly, we study the menu
    Devour the three course French meal
    Served to us in style, the company delightful
    No food fights necessary, portion sizes are generous.

    A walk around the campus
    Works off the meal and it’s back to work.
    With no guards or dogs to chase us
    The walk is leisurely
    The hot Bombay sun the only thing at my back
    I imagine the barbed wire around the campus
    My imagination cast back to prison walls
    Only beautiful trees and flowers bloomed happily.
    Here by the friendly gate.

    Borowski lived history, I read its horror
    Dazed people stumbling out of cattle cars
    Stripped naked headed for the gas chambers
    Unaware of their gruesome destination
    Unlike me headed for a sumptuous meal.
    What evil could devise this violent plan?

    I want to give away Borowski’s collection
    With the haunting title, but to whom?
    Everyone wants to read something edifying
    So many are in denial
    Survivors don’t lie, make up stories.

    The plateful of food before me now could feed two
    I put some back into the pot, remembering
    The children starved by hatred
    The women beaten violently
    The man calling out to his God
    His mouth dry, his thirst unslaked

    When white smoke emerges from the chimneys
    Here in the winter landscape
    I see the blackened sky
    The birds fly frantically for fresh air
    Trees turned to the color of ash
    Some birds disappear and I weep
    When I can’t see them.
    The six million blur my vision.

    What violence prompts people to herd others
    Like cattle over a cliff?
    Violent thoughts stirring in a violent mind.
    The camps an invention of cruel machinations.

    A crowd of pilgrims trampled on a bridge
    Crushed by one innocent push
    Spiralled into the river below
    Their journey to worship
    At a holy shrine thwarted
    This journey the deliberate torment of hell.

    What violence urges change the color of red blood
    To the color of inhumanity in the arteries
    What heart beats with sounds of violence
    Psychology proposes answers
    It will not return the six million.

    I cry out to the oppressors with Borowski
    *Your country — a stock market transaction
    and hoarded sacks of grain.
    My country — the gas chamber
    and the Auschwitz flame.
    *Two Countries – Poetry of Tadeusz Borowski (wordpress.com)

    Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca has been a teacher of English, French and Spanish in educational institutions in India and internationally. Her poems have been published in various journals and anthologies, including the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, The Journal of Indian Poetry in English by Sahitya Akademi, and others. Her debut collection ‘Family Sunday and other Poems’ was published in 1989. Her. A collection ‘Family Sunday and other Poems’ was published in 1989 and a chapbook ‘Light of the Sabbath’ in September 2021.

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