All, Save One

[This poem was written for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27th January 2013, and is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. It was recently inspired by Rachel Lucas’ very well written blog post – Mozartsgirl’s Reflection and Remembrance – which I recommend you read first. I shall also offer this to the dVerse Poets OpenLinkNight]


Variola vera,
the red plague
has all but gone;
wiped from the face
of the earth.
TB is beatable,
cholera and malaria too.
Cancers multifarious
have receded as a threat,
but who would deny
the hope living strong
that all of them, one day,
will be treatable and gone.

All, perhaps, save one.

We know the secrets,
and unhealthy causes
of our malaise
that shorten life.
Medical science
and, Lord knows, WHO
advise us all that
common sense
and oranges
exercise and laughter..

..yes laughter
particularly laughter

and, perhaps, prayer…

will ensure that we
live longer, happier
lives; maybe
genetically modified
lives, but longer
all the same.

Is that it, is that all?
You know it isn’t.

There is one disease,
for which there is,
yet, no known cure!
It’s pathogens
aren’t known;
no medical research
to establish its
cause, has ever
been shown to exist.

Does it reveal itself
in subtle ways?
At first, maybe,
the bullying at school;
a propensity
to hurt?
Ironic Josef M,
the experimenter?
Who knows, because
we, who have not
succumbed to this
extreme condition,
can never fathom
the depths of he,
or she,
who could become
an angel of death;
who could, today,
take a journey to…


and not feel
the unbearable pain
of millions,
bleeding from the walls.

Is it a terminal disease
that lies still dormant
in all of us, to which
the most of us
have developed
an immunity?

Save the few …

Is it a switch
inside the brain
over which the few
have no control;
for which there is
no cure, but death?

It has a name,
a very simple name,
whose tone belies
its true significance.

It is Hate.
It is Evil.
It is pure,

And this is not descriptive
of the disease …
it is
the disease

Is it within our grasp
to purge humanity
of this malaise as well…

or will it always have to be …

All, save one?

© 2013 John Anstie

About PoetJanstie

“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
This entry was posted in Death, Fear, Hope, poem, poetry, sadness, War. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to All, Save One

  1. “Is it a terminal disease
    that lies still dormant
    in all of us, to which
    the most of us
    have developed
    an immunity?

    Save the few..

    Is it a switch
    inside the brain
    over which the few
    have no control;
    for which there is
    no cure, but death?”

    Yes..these are troubling questions. If we consider the whole of humanity as “ONE” , then when someone , somewhere kills or maims, a bit of that person is there in us . What then makes us act in that way? What is the purpose of evil in the larger scheme of things? Even when we talk of individual responsibility and accountability and choices, one wonders how connected it all is…nature, nurture et all. And how much society at large is responsible for the kind of estrangement in a person that he does ” not feel
    the unbearable pain
    of millions,
    bleeding from the walls.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Gosh, thank you so much for taking the trouble to visit some other parts of my blog. And thank you more for your thought provoking comments. Yes indeed, I think we are all potentially capable of evil, sociopathic, with nil conscience, but most of us are genetically coded with safety valves that stops of short of action and a conditioning to reinforce our humanity, by our mothers, fathers and guardians. But it only takes one bad apple …


  2. claudia says:

    i wish there was a cure..terrible things happen when we give room to that little spark of hate…ugh…powerfully penned..


  3. Beth Winter says:

    Hatred, Evil, Bullying… is there a cure? or is it possible that we are all left to fend for ourselves? Excellent poetry.


  4. The Linnet says:

    I found this a deeply saddening poem but how could it be anything else?
    I disagree about any evil being ‘pure evil’ (it being an oxymoron) yet I agree we will never be able to cure humanity of the ability to commit cruelty and murder.
    But (and this is a bizarre coincidence) having just read about ‘The fundamental attribution error’ I feel it is far too easy for us to look back and see only part of the scene. We are all human and as such potentially capable of committing terrible things. This is not said to justify or in anyway say the people who carried these acts out should not have been dealt with, only that the scary truth is given the perfect wrong set of events anyone of us could end up being a victim but on the wrong side. That scares the living daylights out of me and I hope we all ‘the world population of humanity’ never forget and never allow such events to happen again.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks for such a considerable and considered response, Abi. I like that you picked out “pure evil” as an oxymoron, which it could be in one sense, but the definition of ‘pure’ that I chose for this context was most certainly ‘complete, utter and unadulterated’. If the evil were adulterated, even slightly, then perhaps such acts of evil might not have been so effective. I might still have liked the use of ‘pure’ in an oxymoronic way, as in ‘pure of heart’, as if to emphasise the ambiguity, in the same way that the phrase “deafening silence” does so effectively. But that doesn’t quite work for me.

      As for the fundamental attribution error, in our distant observation of crimes of the past, where probably all of the perpetrators are either dead or incarcerated, in the historical context, it may not be easy for us to judge, but there is no doubt about everyone’s antithesis to such inhumanity of the magnitude of the holocaust. There is also no doubt about the need for those directly responsible for these acts, to be dealt with. Because of the degree of collaboration and cooperation that had to be in place to enable such horrific consequences, we could never have ‘taken prisoners’, and let any of them go free without serious judgement. But, in addition to this, there will surely have been a whole population of individuals much lower down the pecking order, for whom the reality might be different from the perspective of those observers who now stand in judgement, and who might have suffered coercion by the system imposed by the Third Reich, who achieved this by the creation of a kind of mass hysteria, driven by its apologists, feeding the populus with a perspective that, ironically, the Jewish people were evil. This can never be excused. Whilst I sympathise with the plight of the lower order members of that regime, we can afford few humane feelings for the movers and shakers of the Third Reich, including the likes of Josef Mengele.

      You’re right, the thought of it happening again is scary and, as my poem hints, just as is done by medical research, we should do everything possible to try and understand how it happens and thereby ensure we never let the circumstances that led to the holocaust happen again.

      There is no doubt that this is an emotive subject, in judgement of which most of us in the civilised world stand together. Thanks again for your comment, Abi, and for encourging me to do some deeper thinking on the whole issue.


      • The Linnet says:

        My comment was in no way excusing, I feel every single person should be accountable for their actions and if need be to the law. All I was saying is your poem asks if we can cure evil in humanity as if it were an illness. I was suggesting that there is no such thing as pure evil, there is the capacity for good and bad in us all and that is influenced by the situation we are in and the events that are happening. But regardless we still have a choice however affected and then the responsibility that goes with the consequences. But understanding how things affect our minds is important in preventing it happening again.


        • PoetJanstie says:

          I absolutely know that is not what you were suggesting, Abi, and, more important still, I understand and feel your fear too, and that we should only allow that fear to drive us to understand how this could have happened and consequently try to prevent its recurrence. I think this will already have started to happen in the many layers and circles of administration that had to mop up the mess after WW2. As for the existence or otherwise of ‘pure evil’, you are right there is good and bad in all of us, but I believe there is an infinite spectrum of characterisations of the proportions of good and bad in us, just as there are variations in our biology. In the extreme, at one or other end of that spectrum, I still believe it is possible that pure evil, or pure good, or as near as damn it, can still exist.


          • The Linnet says:

            Thanks John, I have read your edited reply.

            I wish I could say the world has learnt but as the stories keep coming of Iraqi prisoners abused and humiliated by both UK and USA troops I wonder what it will take before we make wholesale changes to incarceration so these acts cannot happen.


  5. Sadly after Newtown, I believe the latter. Well written and convincing.


  6. marousia says:

    A powerful write, John, the monstrous truth that lurks in every civilisation and indeed, every human…


  7. Craig Morris says:

    Thank you, John, for that thoughtful and thought-provoking commemoration of when evil seems to have been invited to have its full dark way on earth. The scariest part is that it was humans like us who did it.


  8. 1emeraldcity says:

    I thought I posted but don’t see it…so here it is again. Yes there is pure evil, dear John…and sometimes love is not enough. Thank you for sharing this excellent write…lest we forget…and yes it does start with bullying…grown to mass murder. x


  9. 1emeraldcity says:

    Yes, dear John…pure evil does exist…and sometimes love is not enough. Your poem, however, is an act of love…lest we forget to fight the evil…and it does start very early…bullying grown to mass murder…an excellent write! Thank you for remembering and sharing.


  10. I believe there is such a thing as pure “Evil.” It dances on the edges of normalcy and sanity, just waiting for a crack, a break to seep in. But how can one treat it? The symptoms rarely become visible to the public until the “disease” has festered and turned septic in the carrier. We can only hope to protect, to immunize ourselves by remembering to love, respect, accept, understand–not hate, discriminate and close our minds. Very thought-compelling write, John. Well penned.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Sounds like a horror story, Ginny, “dancing on the edge of normalcy and sanity, just waiting for a crack, a break to seep in” *shudders*. But yes we do need to be aware and protect ourselves by nurturing the feelings, nay habits of love, respect, courtesy and tolerance. Thank you very much for your response.


  11. tashtoo says:

    Quite honestly left speechless…fantastic skill…fantastic conclusion…horrible inspiration ( we know there`s plenty of that!) The force you speak to is strong…I happen to believe our light is brighter.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      I believe that too, Natasha, at least a majority of us have lights that shine brighter! Sometimes, though, I fear the force of love alone isn’t strong enough to banish the evil that resides in a few individuals. It may be all a part of the quest for a greater understanding of the human mind and its mental health.

      Thank you for giving your time to read this.


  12. brian miller says:

    dang…going to the holocaust museum shook my life so you had me already with your opening…and then the reality of it…how it begins…and i see it all the time in the kids i teach and work with….i would hope we do one day find that switch…powerful verse….


  13. Sisyphus47 says:

    It’s the fight of our lives as it was our fathers’ – never again…


    • PoetJanstie says:

      It is a fight; the classic fairytale of a struggle between good and evil echoes down the ages, as ever it will, as long as we walk this earth. But we can always live in hope that we might one day find that switch…

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, Sisyphus47.


  14. Sisyphus47 says:

    Reblogged this on Where do We go from Here? and commented:
    If not now when?

    Liked by 1 person

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