Herman Sharp (1899-1918)
My great uncle was killed at Argonne,
his body buried in foreign soil.
For its first hometown casualty,
Maywood created a park,
inscribed his name in bronze.
Other wars, more dying.
The ground was renamed Veterans Park.
No relative was there to protest
and children who swing on the swings
Today the only proof I have of his life
is a faded photo postcard.
He’s posing in front of a fake cannon,
the Capitol painted as background.
Crisp uniform, broad smile.
His buddy close at his side.
The message: Dear Mom and Dad.
See the new watch on my wrist.
How many hours, days until
innocence fell to artillery fire?
First published in Out of Line, 2006 and in the author’s book, Midwestern Memories (Aldrich Press, 2013)
In Time of War
In the parlor of an Oklahoma farmstead,
a young man wearing blue fatigues
with POW stenciled on the back
explains in accented English, I studied
in Stuttgart. His trained fingers command
the keyboard of the polished spinet, an heirloom
that survived dust storms and droughts
(only the son knows how to play, but he’s
in Europe blowing up Germans with a howitzer).
Brahms’ Sonata No. 1 in C Major invigorates
an otherwise ordinary day spent mucking out stalls,
until from the back porch someone calls
his name, Hans, back to work, schnell.
Fingers halt in mid-allegro.
The Rubble Women (Trümmerfrau)
In ghost cities—
Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Dusseldorf—
women, fifteen to fifty, their men dead
or prisoners of war, pressed into service
for years to clear a million acres of rubble,
the legacy of firestorms and bombs.
The women toil brick by brick passed
hand over hand, scraped and cleaned
for use again. Teams of ten or twelve,
with only pickaxes, hand-winches, and
shovels dismantle what they can, push
barrows filled with debris or any useful
thing—piping, steel, wood beams, toilets,
wash basins—across the spectral scene.
At day’s end, a bowl of hot soup,
another heap of salvaged bricks.
First published in Pudding Magazine, 2014
Name-calling, race-baiting, lying—
so unlike the American experience during
the War years when we pulled together, right?
It still catches in my throat—every child’s fear
of losing someone they loved, knowing
someone who had.
On long scary nights when bombs never fell,
we cloaked our windows without question.
I’m not sure how many enemy planes would have
found our street, our house though we lived
only a few miles from a likely target—
Proviso rail yards. But what strategic advantage
of bombing Roanoke, VA or Franconia, NH?
I’d often sit on my father’s lap in the blue
wingchair and listen to the crackle of voices
coming from our Philco. Not grasping the news,
I’d try instead to puzzle out how tiny men
could live inside that radio. Sometimes I’d sit
on my father’s lap at the kitchen table where
he and Mother played rummy by flashlight.
As a child, I felt lucky because Dad,
with his broken back and flat feet, didn’t go
off to war. I should be there, he’d say,
cross that the Army wouldn’t take him.
But on those nights enveloped by the warmth
of his body, his ample lap, I knew
that whatever happened we would be safe.
First published in Schylkill Valley Journal, 2012 and the author’s book, Midwestern Memories (Aldrich Press, 2013)
Nancy Scott is the managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey. She is also the author of seven collections of poetry. Her most recent, Running Down Broken Cement (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, August 2014) is a collection of poems inspired by more than two decades as a caseworker for the State of New Jersey assisting homeless families, abused and foster children and those with mental health problems and/or AIDS. She is also an artist. www.nancyscott.net