War Story

My father never talked about the war;
he rarely talked at all, he just yelled
at my mother as he punched her
in the face during the battle that
ó despite times of truce ó never
really ended. Years after he died,
I learned that he had helped to build
the docks at Cherbourg, and to rebuild
seven railway bridges in two days
and lay main lines for General Patton.

My mother loved to talk about the war,
about Hitler burying people alive,
about Londoners fleeing the stifling air
of the Underground shelters, only to be
blown to bits when they emerged
onto the street. She also told stories,
all hilarious, about the uniform factory
where she worked, inspecting hats
for soldiers, making perfect stitches
to pass the time between air raids.

It didnít help my father to stay silent
about the horrors that only soldiers know.
It didnít help my mother to talk about
the horrors that only frightened, demoralized
victims know. They both had hard lives,
twisted and deformed by the non-stop
trauma of war. My father could not build
a bridge for me, my mother could not repair
the ripped fabric of our family. I was born
on a battleground, the offspring of enemies
who served on the same side.

I lost my fatherís purple heart, yet I know
it rests inside my chest, pumping violet blood
like a contrast dye that exposes my worst fears
on the warped screen of my psyche.
I evolved from war, and have been on high
alert my whole life, setting out sand buckets
filled with contingencies, hiding in shelters
of avoidance, stepping carefully along the path,
on the lookout for an unexploded incendiary device.

Diane Elayne Dees

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Diane Elayne Dees  would be pleased to hear them.