-after Samuel Bak

On the cot, the boy dreams that something crawls from his pillowcase: an orange bird, the wet beak, an oval eye; its feet, breaking through the bottom seam, totter on the driftwood floor. All the walls are gray. Above his head, someone has drilled an opening in the plaster, layered like a nest. A real cloud peeps through the circle as in a faraway movie. Suddenly, thundering boots, men shouting. Stirring, the boy tries to stay asleep, not to miss the scene when the bird steps toward the gaping hole, unfurls its fluted cinnamon wings and lifts.

Carol Dine
The Bitter Oleander, 2012



"ORANGE NIGHT," a collaboration of internationally acclaimed artist, Samuel Bak, and poet/author, Carol Dine, presents a unique dialogue on the subject of the Holocaust. The cumulative effect of Bak’s paintings and drawings and Dine’s poetic commentary transcend the artists’ individual powers. An unprecedented approach, this dialogue creates for the reader an intimate confrontation with history.

Here, the philosophical vision of both the artist and poet expands to include references to the classics, as well as the spiritual influence of the Kabbalah. The book of twenty-four images and accompanying poems is divided into four sections. In Orange Night, the reader relives the artist’s memories of the sundered Vilna Ghetto (Lithuania), where his drawings were first displayed when he was nine years old, and from which he escaped with his mother. “Artist,” portrays the necessity of the arts for survival, redemption. In “Adonai,” the artist and poet explore the question of God’s absence. “Afterward” attempts to interpret the aftermath of war from the distance of time. In this final section, the reader faces a broken landscape which the artist has, in the poet’s view, “cleansed with orange light.”       

The book will be an important addition to studies of the Holocaust and WW 11, in addition to Art History, Linguistics and Poetry.




SELF-PORTRAITS (From Van Gogh in Poems)

My features, voices, amplified, floating.
The nose, a phallus at rest. Around the bend
of brow, another brow forms a cliff.    

Primitive circles, my eyes
stalk afternoon shadows.

Barbed wire beard;
demonic lines scratch at my cheek.

Seen through the paper,
absence retains its form.






Wind agitates the pencil lines, 

the fragile web

connecting my family:


Reverend Theodorus

Anna Cerbentus


Anna Cornelia

Elisabeth Huberta

Willemien Jacoba



Vincent Willem.

Named for Mother’s

stillborn son,

I draw a nest

in the wound of the bark.


My pen blackens the pollard roots.

Younger brother, Theo,

pays for the ink.






            …most important is not to deceive or desert a woman… when she has fallen down.




My carpenter pencil draws

Sien as Mary Magdalen,

the paper receiving the void

between the rock and her thigh,

her lumbering breasts.


She sits for so long,

the sun goes down over the river.


If she were forgiven

what she did for bread;

her back bent over

from carrying the cross,

instead of a child,

she would not be invisible.


Light caresses her long hair

tangled into brambles.

At the foot of love’s mean grave

I will scatter lilies of the valley.







we stepped onto a trawler in the Nile.

Two teens escaped from Syria

among five-hundred who’d traded in

everything they had for passage to Europe:

Sudanese, Palestinians, Libyans.   


Days later in the deep,  

a darkness circles us;

the unnamed ship rams our stern.


I hear moaning, splashing,

listen for the voice of my beloved.

I cry out his name.


Now I am drowning

in black water,

trying to remember

his face.


Has it been two nights?

In the dark, drifting by, flashes of orange.

I pull a vest toward me.

Near me, a man chooses to succumb;

he stops treading, goes under.


At dawn, nothing but ocean.

Others leave me pieces of themselves:

A grandfather, shivering,

kisses his granddaughter,

passes her to me.

A mother hands me her infant son

like a bundle of foam,

takes her last breath.

In the rising sun, the dead float around me

in their ghost flesh,

their eyes, red glass.


For three days, I twist in the churning sea,

in the shadows of low clouds.

I am weightless but for the babies

I carry, tucked into my vest.


They cry, I sing to them:  

Sleep, sleep, for your pillow, I give you a pigeon

until our rescue somewhere near Crete,

a cargo ship sent by Eleos, goddess of mercy.



Published in  Liberation: New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets.

Mark Ludwig, ed. Beacon Press, 2015.