You could hear them screaming or moaning in flight, and…
Jim McKee, Sergeant, Rifle Co. K., 3rd Battalion, 12th Regiment,
4th Division, June 5, 1944 (D-Day)
She was uncomfortable in Charlie’s Butcher Shop, and with Charlie
in his blood-mottled apron. She wondered if the Japs
wore the same kind of aprons when they slaughtered
innocent babies; but now that she’d seen the strung-up bodies
of Mussolini and his mistress in the newsreels, the carcasses
of beef hanging behind the counter disturbed her even more.
At home she’d help her mother twist the orange pill,
squeeze its juices through the pliable body of white oleo,
yellowing the stick to the color of bees. Longing
for butter, she would never eat anything on her bread.
Once a week she and her other classmates
carried blankets, pillows and books into the basement
to wait, hoping to be lucky and have lunch
after the air raid drills were over. Sometimes she worried
she might have to live there with only kindergartners
for sisters and brothers, her teacher for a mother.
In the middle of the night, more sirens, but no Screaming Meanies.*
From her bedroom window she looked into the lamp-less night,
prayed the Nazis were as far away as the end of
the alphabet with their V-1 rockets and U-2 boats, and
that her father, dressed in his khaki Civilian Defense uniform
carrying a Billy club and flashlight, could stop them.
She listened both night and day for the sounds of boots
tromping like rows of heavy geese, leathered feet to the ground,
until she heard the news—Hitler had killed himself
in an underground fort dug for him by his evil friends.
Her parents took her off to camp, said she should stop
worrying about the war; yet along the road there were
billboards picturing fanged men with visor caps
set atop slit-like eyes, arms raised with knives
poised to open the stomachs of tiny babies.
In her cabin, she swatted mosquito after mosquito
and itched the red swellings on her limbs, she
wondered about the Japanese—how they ate
with those large buck teeth and where they were hiding
until she heard a mushroom cloud carried them away
and she saw the giant heads of monster clouds
on the front page of the newspaper.
She wasn’t sure if these events had anything to do
with bodies that looked like pick-up sticks
which had turned up at strange places called
Auschwitz and Buchanwald.
She wondered if the war would ever end, or
just continue running right along side her
and all the other campers. But one bright
Sunday morning, a counselor from Cabin One,
breathless, ran up the path gasping, shrieking;
The war is over!
The emperor has surrendered!
The war is over!
In that royal moment of relief
as they danced and jumped and hugged,
she didn’t realize the world’s grief,
sooner or later, would catch up with them;
nor did she realize then that war was never
going to run out of breath.
*” Screaming Meenies” were German rocket guns, “Nebelwerfers” mounted on a halftrack that fired in clusters of six or twelve, a second and a half apart.
The Japanese surrender on August 1, 1945 thus bringing World War II to a close.
Published Over A Threshold of Roots, Sndra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2007