Violins of Hope, Knoxville

Mayor

Madeline Rogero
mayor@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Poem written for the January 4, 2019 ribbon-cutting of the Violins of Hope exhibit at the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery. The exhibit displays restored violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. The unique Violins of Hope initiative uses music, art and education to facilitate a citywide dialogue about hope, resilience, tolerance and justice.

By Marilyn Kallet


Violins of Hope, Knoxville

Violins of Hope1.
I don’t blame you for hope,
For wanting violins.

For the Schwarzes of Horb,
There were no elegant sounds,

No quivering long notes.
Deportation came 

Crashing & swift.
But for Hedwig, there was air.

The nameless angel who rescued
Her broken body from the

Transport car hurried her to
Marienhospital, where

The Sisters treated the only Jew
With silence.  

The Just man who lifted her 
From the rails 

Offered hope, the key
To staying human.

Each violin reminds us
That silence is no remedy 

For persecution.

2. 
My maiden name was Zimmerman.
This first violin is my kin.

Thin and hungry, it calls 
From another country.

Its wood remembers the forest,
Does not tremble

The way humans shook
In ‘38, in ‘41.

Each violin is a cradle
For one voice, for millions.

Each seasoned instrument
Resounds with  

History––shtetls and ghettos,
Liberation. 

This violin was a lifeline
For awhile, a coin 

To feed the family.
For another, a ticket out.

Torn, one violin 
Awakens others,

Replanted here,
A forest of sounds.

3. 
Of all instruments, the violin
Comes closest to the human voice.

I hear the Schwarzes of Horb
Praying, right before 
 
Rifles fired through the Black Forest,
Through Bikernieki.

These violins were witnesses
All over Europe,

Where string sections were growing thin,
And the musicians, thinner.

Each violinist is a witness,
Sorrow pouring through a lyrical body.

Gripped by these sounds, 
We too bear witness

To hope thrust from a train window,
Stirring in the pit

Of the orchestra, 
Rising above strife.

This harmony is not easy.
We must continue to speak out

Against graffiti, strains of hate.
This violin was filled with ashes.

This violin was restored
And handed to a young musician

Who practiced hope daily,
Who learned to wake the world again.


Coda:
Perlman
Mintz
Heifetz
Menuhin
Stern
Zuckerman

Names
The poem breathes–– 
In them,
Heaven.