The Flying Man of Treblinka
by Matthew Williams
In a grainy photo: a blot, a figure hovering
above clumsy shtetl roofs. The only evidence
of the flying man’s existence: this photo
& a collection of stories. In the camp, a young
doctor, fascinated by the flying man, unwittingly
removes his iron shackles. The story ends—
the flying man of Treblinka drifts away, over
the camp’s sallow walls, lost in the sun. But,
regarding the moment before, the story is muddled.
In one version, he speaks a droshe first.
In another, a great stone is carried into the air,
the young doctor’s skull crushed & the Treblinka
rebellion spurred. Variations speak of the flying
man’s family, his wife & son. Before he is caught
by the wind guttering above the camp,
the flying man is forced to choose: his son or his wife,
only strong enough to carry one. Sometimes he is able
to save both. Sometimes he comes away only
with bloody palms. Among the variations
there is considerable disagreement over the nature
of the flying man: good or evil, gadol or makhashef.
In the box with the picture of the flying man
there are several other photos: A man & woman
with crooked smiles standing before a sagging
hovel of brick; a German beside a ditch
filled with tin soldiers—the shot taken in such
sharp focus, such exacting detail it hurts the eyes
when studied too long; a child’s puzzle, missing
several pieces; a young doctor beside a table
of dying starlings, wings all severed.