Poem of the Week | June 12, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Christian Bancroft. Bancroft is the recipient of a Michener Fellowship. His work has appeared in Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Make It New, and Asymptote, among others. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, where he is working on a dissertation about queering translation and Modernism.

Author’s note:

This poem is from the manuscript A Ghost Has No Fantasieswhich brings to light and reframes the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust. Like the entire manuscript, “Night Howling” is a found text. This particular poem stems from a memoir written by Pierre Seel (1923-2005), a man who was persecuted by the Nazis and sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbrück camp for his homosexuality. During his time at the camp, Seel witnessed the execution of his lover, Jo, who was mauled to death by a pack of German shepherds. Because gayness challenges patriarchy, the poem gives space to confront the kind of social and physical violence enacted by men onto men. It was written with the sonnet form in mind, and, influenced by the first-hand accounts of these men, I was interested in exploring the deconstruction and reconstruction of language.


Night Howling

Pierre Seel


“…the SS stripped him naked and shoved a tin pail over his head.
Next they sicced their ferocious German shepherds on him: the
guard dogs first bit into his groin and thighs, then devoured him right
in front of us. His shrieks of pain were distorted and amplified by the
pail in which his head was trapped…Since then I sometimes wake
up howling in the middle of the night.”


I sometimes wake up howling in the middle of the night
The SS were stripped and shoved into shrieks of pain sometimes
A tin pail devoured their ferocious German shepherds
In front of us, his groin was amplified and devoured
His head bit into the guard dogs, trapped and naked
Since then, the SS were shrieks of pain distorted
Next, his head shoved German thighs in front of us
Trapped by tin, the stripped shepherds were ferocious
Which the pail guard sicced groin pain into thighs
Naked bit sicced shoved devoured shrieks trapped amplified
Sometimes howling middle wake up I night then
Up howling night I middle then sometimes wake since
Night the wake of then middle howling sometimes in
Night night night night night in him I wake ferocious.