2020 Open Call Poems - Ernie Brill



My Mother’s War Story

By Ernie Brill

You young have no idea what it was like.
We lived for letters, for the slightest word.
I remember one night – I’ll never forget it.
It was rough times, early in the forties.
We heard about your father on the radio.


His name was in the news, an article
The storming of Kasserine Pass in Africa.
An article by a one Glen McFadden
Who turned out to be an A one phony
Describing a raging battle in Tunisia!!
Fighting Rommel, and that Rommel was tough.


They said your dad stormed the pass with a machine gun!
Such nonsense: he barely knew how to shoot!
But there we were: cold January, rationed heat,
And I didn’t know where he was or how he was,
Or if he was dead or alive or what!


I didn’t know what would happen to him
Or all of us I was always worrying
If we could get to Europe soon enough
To save those in the concentration camps.


That evening I heard on the radio
The Germans had retaken Kaserine Pass.
It grew late, colder. I was miserable.
I wrapped the one blanket I had tighter
And tighter, like when I was a little girl.
I won’t forget that night as long as I live.



Elegy To An Unknown Human Falling

I see you leap from the flaming tower.
You jack-knife, freeze in midair by camera,
Tucked, seeming so disciplined,, calmly poised.
As you plunge,what beats through your heart and brain?Winin
Do you remember your mother making breakfast,
Or your child crying out in the night?
Do you re-do triumphs – first breaths underwater,
Or,simply, calm Sunday afternoon strolls?
Do sudden fleets of seagulls cushion you,


Winging you to a warm haven?
Or do you behold Buddha, Allah, Jesus
Whose wide embrace spirits you to safety
Before looming concrete arrives, and air ends.


I wish tensed thousands, gathering, linked arms
To form impromptu human trampolines
To bounce you past death. And I wish
Angel firefighters aimed cloud-hoses
Whose waterfalls could drown conflagrations


I wish myself and a million others
Could lift the rubble, wipe away the soot,
Cradle your crushed body, and, bending, breathe
Over your lips, and bring you back to life.


Ernie Brill writes fiction and poetry He received a BA and MA in from San Francisco State College a thesis on Chester Himes, and is the author of I Looked Over Jordan And Other Stories, exploring, like Homes and others, race and class in American society. He writes poems and stories about the underdog, the invisible, the flamboyant omitted who refuse to be silenced.


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