Life Became Him – a poem by Paul Vincent Cannon

5 Lines – Exchanges


Photo: Auschwitz 1, the former Polish army barracks which the SS commandeered as a prison for Polish army officers, Poles, Jews, subversives, and others. This is a substantial complex of brick multi-story blocks, unlike Auschwitz 2, which was mostly wooden blocks. I found the place sombre and still, a place of  confronting horror. This is the place where the Catholic priest and subversive Maximilian Kolbe exchanged places with a young Jewish man because he was a husband and father and had a future to live. The commandant agreed to the exchange. Kolbe was starved to death, although he was given a mercy injection after three weeks.


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”  Elie Wiesel

Life Became Him

Quietly he ventured an offer to
the commandant lusting for reprisal,
one young father not ready for some version of heaven,
and persuaded, the commandant exchanges the two,
the priest is starved in the doorway of eternity.

©Paul Vincent Cannon



Filed under challenge, Five Lines, Free Verse, poem, quote, war

31 responses to “Life Became Him – a poem by Paul Vincent Cannon

  1. blindzanygirl

    So very powerful. So sad too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I hope that one day there won’t be a necessity of sacrifices like that, that’s what I really, really wish. As long as this is not the case, those sacrifices are the candlelight we can orient on, in dark so dark days. We can only give our best every day to remain compassionate, humble, simply human, never cease to try. Best wishes from Vienna.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “Starved in the doorway of eternity.” That’s a powerful image and line. Well done. 👌

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Charis Counselling

    Very sobering – words so few but so powerful


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Somber words of honor and respect for this priest, and life. A man who lived what he believed. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A fitting tribute for a brave and selfless servant of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awww so sad….

    Happy new year Paul..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very powerful words. Thank you! I will never understand how people were able to do such these things.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a haunting tale and poem. That one man could sacrifice himself for another gives hope – such tragedy that one would be placed in such a position,.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for your poem, Paul, and for the background info. For all the horrors the world can hold there are joys and blessings that people share making it possible for life to go on. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on THE FLENSBURG FILES and commented:
    Poem dedicated to those who perished in Auschwitz before it was liberated in 1945.

    Liked by 1 person

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