Anne Frank House: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Behind the bookcase
This is a poem, written for my creative writing course in Spain, that was inspired by the experience of visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands
I walk through the door and suddenly it’s 1944. Crowds of visitors fall silent in unison— even the strawberry blonde toddler rambling in Dutch and the Spanish teenager lamenting “¡Hace frío!”
and the French couple discussing plans for “gateau au chocolat”— They have felt the air grow heavy. Up and up the narrow stairs,
the journey seems only to lengthen as I climb perhaps to give me time to prepare for what I will find but I keep climbing because nothing can prepare me. Past the bookcase,
the dust of disuse still settling from well before the end of the war, there is little value a book can hold without being read, but these, these have served a higher purpose. They stand at attention, in a constant salute to the eight people they tried to conceal, to protect eight reasons why they stayed for two years on that bookcase untouched and unread but honored just the same.
Into the living room, and thick drapes cling to the window panes as if they, too, long to taste a crisp autumn breeze or embrace the sun or feel the tickle of a stray raindrop.
Through the hallway and one picture stands out from the rest— a grinning boy—her first kiss. Peter.
And suddenly the room is laced with hushed chatter and muffled laughter and whispered confessions of teenagers finding their first taste of love,
the shadow of war and fear and uncertainty slides away momentarily to make room for the beacon of euphoria—
But it’s the end of the hall and the whispers fade and the laughter dies in the throats of thirty people
because for an hour we were her but now we are just us.
And we are approaching the door once again with her thoughts becoming twisters in our heads and her feelings poking at our hearts and what is left behind? A box full of papers, passport photos, letters, pages and pages and pages of a diary—