[This is an experiment in Sapphic stanzas. I have revised it twice since I first posted it. I wrote it, obviously, after a moving visit, October 11, to Gallery 3 at the War Museum in Ottawa. Gallery 3 features events from 1931 to 1945. I found the experience quite overwhelming: simple things like some of the pamplets from the war brought back memories of my childhood.]
Autumn maples’ usual reds are muted.
Even oaks’ baronial golds glow softer;
leaden clouds deliver dim hints of winter:
Wartime papers: grainy old propaganda
In my eyes I feel the emotions rising
triggered by collections of printed booklets
aimed at the children.
Long vestigial memories speed my breathing;
I can feel them gathering in the hallways,
Ghosts of childhood lingering in my memory:
Spirits of wartime.
Words like “freedom”, “glorious”, “victor”, “allies”
Made it seem that fighting and death were magic
said that valour was of itself a promise:
Sirens, air-raids, shortages, rumours, childhood:
Mired in death and misery of other children
and the cries of others who fell in wartime
I am searching memories for my father
Not expecting much in the way of fondness;
But, surprise: in gallery three I find it.
War II exhibit.
Back I fly through images sounds and nightmares
spitfires music bombing and ration booklets
fears that end in atoms and death forever:
weep for the victims.
Silent woods and grasses outside the building
leave me standing shocked in the autumn evening
here we live in peace but for fading memories:
lest we forget it.