Author’s latest revisits the Shoah

‘The Swastika Clock’

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

To describe local poet, author and essayist Louis Daniel Brodsky as “prolific” is an understatement. With the publication of his latest poetry collection, “The Swastika Clock,” (Time Being Books, $15.95), the St. Louis native has produced 73 volumes of poetry and 25 volumes of prose.

In his latest collection, Brodsky again re-visits the Shoah, wrestling with a topic so immense and traumatic it prompted the late survivor Prime Levi to once say it was beyond the scope of artistic treatment. 

Brodsky shows a fine-tuned ability to express thoughts and feelings about the inexpressible and to call forth images in the minds of his readers that combine beauty and dread in equal measure. Take, for example, the concluding stanza of “Chicken Soup”:

I’ve died ten thousand deaths, in my lifetime,

To mollify the demon’s appetite for my circumcised penis,

He’s such a sleazy bastard, demanding raw flesh,

Making contracts with the rabble of Pontius Pilate,

Followers of Franco, Stalin, Hitler, Tito,

Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot, Milosevic–

A witch’s brew of sons-of-bitches!

I sipt the matzo-ball broth of Jewish grandmas,

Joshua, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham,

Chicken soup served to the Rabbi Akiba and Maimonides,

Tonight, drinking myself into major inebriation,

I search for a way to survive one more day,

Before being sent away from my soul’s ghetto to the camps,

To have my head, pits, pubis, heart and spirit shaved,

Reciting Kaddish, praying like crazy

That death and God are more than passing acquaintances.

Brodsky’s poetic gifts, which were recognized with the Best Book of Poetry Award presented by the Great Lakes Culture at Michigan State University in 2004 (for his “You Can’t Go Back, Exactly”), are deployed brilliantly in “The Swastika Clock” to give a powerful voice of rage and defiance to those who lives were snuffed out during the greatest calamity ever to befall the Jewish people.

This collection deserves a place of honor on the shelves of anyone who wants to come to grips with the Holocaust’s overpowering challenges, and who appreciates the work of a splendidly gifted poet.