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 4

Inside my mother's belly through April and May
I kick a bit while the armies arrive en masse.
Americans soon have their hosts saying "hi" and "okay"

and girls, sick of rationing, warm to their largesse.
A division of Poles, Canadian troops and Free French
chatter in various languages-men who said yes

to the call, now squeezed into bunks that fill every inch
inside the camouflaged Quonset and Nissen huts
from Channel to Thames, by Dartmouth, Strete and Kingsbridge.

In battledress with heavy boots, tin helmets
and all the kit they'll need when they get to France,
they rehearse on Devon beaches where one of my aunts

used to sun herself, her only sign of defence
a folded newspaper sunhat shading her nose
as she munched on a sandwich, the sea a soothing presence.

At Appledore and Woolacombe they use
the fields of all the evacuated people,
march to the dunes and, one by one, dispose

of dummy German tanks in tactical
manoevres, using their ammunition live
and landing craft that dump them into the Channel.

While I gestate, curled as if waiting to dive,
jeeps from Detroit and cheese from Wisconsin farms,
radios, bullets, drugs and plasma arrive:

hangars and sheds, workshops and commandeered barns
are full of supplies. Lining the country lanes
sit trucks and tanks like suddenly-sprouted berms

under roofs of tin that mutter and bang in the rain.
The war in the air proceeds according to plan-
in March the Germans lost two thousand planes:

by the time the Allies haul all this stuff onto land
the airforce will surely have cleared the Normandy way.
Meanwhile, tanks shoot it out on Devonshire sand.

© 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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