Saturday, July 7, 2007

Pearl and the Bomb

Summer of "95 men who fought
World War II tell how it was,
"On land, in the air, on the seas."
I was nine playing paper dolls;
my family returned from a Sunday matinee.
No TV then and the neighbors
were at the door soon as they saw
our lights. Children sent into the kitchen
while the news of Pearl Harbor
was told in hushed tones.

Mother joined Red Cross classes,
taught us kids how to make our beds
with square corners, squash tin cans,
roll foil and string into balls,
save fat for the butcher.
On Thursdays we bought Defense Stamps
in the principal's office,
pasted them into a paper book
worth twenty-five dollars someday.

Meat, sugar, gas were rationed.
At our house cow tongue simmered
on the back burner curled up
with celery and onions.
Bogart's car in "The Big Sleep"
has a "B" gas ration sticker
on his front windshield.
My dad had an "A".
He was too old for the Army but
they paid him to test recruits at Fort Snelling.
An experience which inspired him
with serious doubts about intelligence tests
as a measue of the human race.

The army designed a new way
to discover officers and
dad disappeared two summers.
Mom took us kids on the Zephyr
back to her family farm in Illinois.
Canned Victory Garden
tomatoes, beets, beans, squash,
sent home in brown boxes.

People snicker when I tell them
about my dad as if he had an affair.
I knew everyone's son, husband, dad
were off somewhere and ours
brought back Navajo pottery, rugs, jewelry.
So when the bomb was dropped
and Los Alamos was on the radio,
he knew,"that must be what they were doing"
those summers he designed schools
for children of the "builders."

It's a long time between nine ant thirteen.
On weekends there was football, The Hit Parade,
dancing the Lindy at the teen canteen.
What could we know,
children destined as "the silent generation,"
"the beat generation,"
soldiers for "the Forgotten War.

We matured on the lip of the Atomic Age,
were educated by the GI Bill professors,
married the days of the Korean War,
bore our childre during the Cold War,
found no victory in Vietnam
and wish we could still believe
in a world made better by stamps
sold in the principals office.


hlmontgomery said...

Cookie, you have captured beautifully the romanticism of the time as I perceive it, when the country supported its efforts to remain free and the people understood the need for unity, but honestly, when I read of cow tongues curled in a pot with celery and onions, I believe I prefer the Mc-Age of Fast Food.


Cheers, and great job!


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful poem. I agree with hmontgomery about the cow's tongues, but otherwise felt a longing for the way of life described. Thanks!