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 5

I'll be born to an England that barely recognizes itself-
but in May there's the greening and lambing of glorious spring.
At Woolston Farm the swallows still nest by the roof

while the garden thrushes make pecking forays along
the newturned earth, then stop to look round and chant.
Americans came through in April, crouching and shooting

with real live bullets-a full-scale experiment:
they were beached at Slapton Sands and headed inland
through Woolston's pastures to Okehampton, tired and sunburnt.

Across these same pastures in May, keen to abscond,
run two boys, both named John, with muddy knees,
shoving each other as friend will do with friend

(like Shirley and I, years later, on make-believe ponies).
"What's that?" says John the elder, grabbing the arm
of the John who's only eight, but all the kid sees

is a rabbit hole like hundreds all over the farm.
"There's something inside-look, there," the tall one insists
and they both kneel down on the grass and peer and squirm

wondering what kind of toy some idiot lost
that ended up here, stuck in the bend of the warren.
"I think I can reach it," the little one says, "well-almost..."

"Wait, let me try. Come on-shove over! I'll loosen
my coat and lie down: my arm is longer than yours."
So senior John, feeling the heat of the sun,

throws off his blazer, thrusts in his hand, and swears.
As he tugs, the anti-tank grenade goes off.
Pieces of shirt and flesh fly everywhere.

© 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.


All content copyright © 2006-12 by ShatterColors, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of material, in whole or in part, from any ShatterColors Literary Review
pages without written permission of the copyright owners is strictly prohibited.
Site designed and built by Robert Scott Leyse, with input and logo by Granville Papillon,
and wallpaper by Edward Haven from two of his paintings.