Rembrandt’s landscape had it right:
in a small corner in dark woods,
the naked, half-dead man slung
across a saddle blanket is held
by the left hand of the Samaritan,
half-hidden behind the horse.
A horrified well-dressed couple
in cloaks and floppy hats
looks on while nearby a hunter,
fully absorbed, aims his rifle
high up a massive oak,
accompanied by his boy.
Hans Frank, Governor-General
of occupied Poland, made it a crime
to feed a Jew or house one overnight
or give a lift, punishable by quick death
as with Jósef and Wiktoria Ulma
shot after the eight they had hidden,
followed by their six children,
screaming in the village of Markowa.
In Czartoryski’s palace in Pełkinie,
the Gestapo found the Rembrandt
for Frank to enjoy at his headquarters
in Wawel Castle on the flowing Vistula.
What makes people good?
Beyond the woods in full sunshine
life goes on as usual: an elegant
the double-arched stone bridge;
further up the road the tiny figures
of the priest and Levite head for
an odd town of domes and windmills;
in the flat fields people work;
a fisherman rests by the lower bridge;
livestock graze behind a fence,
a lone cow drinking from the stream.
Recovered from Frank’s villa in Bavaria
after he fled, the Rembrandt now hangs
in Muzeum Narodwe in Kraków where lived
brave helpers, half-hidden, Zbigniew Kuzma,
Jerzy Zakulski, his father-in-law Jan Bahr,
Ada Prochnicka, Dr. Helena Szlapak,
a gynaecologist on Garbarska St.,
Józefa Rysinska, city clerk Bolesław Baran,
Maria and Bronisław Florek,
attorney Stanisław Dobrowolski, and
Tadeuz Pankiewicz, owner of Eagle pharmacy,
the only one within ghetto walls.