Born In War (from "After D-Day")

by Judith Barrington

[ShatterColors is pleased to present the first five parts of Judith Barrington's narrative poem After D-Day. Click for numbers: One, Two, Three, Four, Five.]

...unless we can relate it to ourselves personally,
history will always be more or less of an abstraction,
and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas.
- Czeslaw Milosz

Number 1

What does it mean to be born in war-to enter the fray
as Spitfires and Messerschmitts fall from on high
into the farmland I'll grow up to walk on Sundays?

What does it mean to be born as walls fly
and live electric wires swoop to the ground,
sending their sparks up into the flak-filled sky?

Still inside my mother, I shudder at the sounds
muffled by the amniotic fluid:
the steady drone of Luftwaffe bombers, northbound

to London, or banking to turn above the wooded
weald of Sussex and dump their bombs on the hill
or on towns where air raid shelters are dark and crowded.

The planets line up, astrology holding its vigil,
but more is defining this birth than the lie of the stars:
an air raid begins, my mother frightened but docile;

windows explode and I'll enter a home that's at war.
They'll surround me with pillows on that first summer day
but the screams of the wounded will root in my newborn ear.

© 2006 by Judith Barrington


About the Author

Judith Barrington grew up in Brighton, England, and has lived in Oregon, U.S. since 1976. Her poetry collections are: Horses and the Human Soul, History and Geography, and Trying to be an Honest Woman.

Lifesaving: A Memoir won the 2001 Lambda Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, an ongoing best seller, is used in M.F.A. programs across the US and in Australia. Her work appears in numerous journals. and she has taught at conferences including Split Rock, Haystack, Port Townsend Writers' Conference, Katchemak Bay Writers' Conference, The Arvon Foundation, and The London Poetry School. She co-founded The Flight of the Mind Writing Workshops in Oregon, where she taught from 1983 to 2000.


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