Monday, November 30, 2015

Jennifer Sage writes

Bring Me into Temptation

Struck again as moonlight strikes the edge of the horizon,
Breathing, suddenly surrendered to the coming night....
Altogether taken,
To the edge of what was mine.

Looking through the shrouded lace,
Upon a tethered, wistful taste of love....
Bring me not into redemption...but into temptation,
With a forsaken gaze upon my tender flesh.

Silence revered, but not here...
Not now, when I’m drowning with the most sacrificial desire,
One, two, three....gone,
Into the fire of memories detained.

A secret I’ll never tell, but always feel....
I offer me, just more, no less,
No matter as the moonlight wanes,
That I am caught in the crossfire of my heart.

Give one, take another...
Waiting for that other brim to fill,
Love, in its rawest forms...
Heeds no warnings of the days to come.

Eyes open again to the world as it is,
Sexual Tendencies
Heart filled, heart broken, heart redeemed....
It is not thy heart, but thy soul however...
That truly sees.

And that, is never broken....


Sherry Cummings paints


Hilary D Zamora writes and paints

"As I gazed at her in wonder and longing, the razor sharp thorns inside her began to puncture through her skin leaving tiny holes from which crimson droplets were born. It was as if her facade of perfection wilted and disintegrated and showed her inner damage right before my very eyes, as quick as a gunshot in the ghetto. You could almost hear her fracturing porcelain, pop, pop, pop. Without hesitation I approached her when flinching seconds before I couldn't bring myself to do so. Her name was Phoenix and we were a result of fate or destiny." ~Hilary D Zamora

Jeremy Seligson responds

Jeremy Seligson: I was born in Washington, D.C., a stone's throw from the White House. The nurse held me up to the window and said, "Boy, do you see that White House? Someday you gonna live in that White House!" It hasn't come to pass and in fact to this day I haven't lived in any house that was white. My father was the comptroller for the Secret City, Oak Ridge Tennessee, when the A-Bomb fuel was produced and my mother the wardrobe mistress in the Playhouse. She died of breast cancer when I was four, perhaps from nuclear pollution, and that's why I say, "My mother, too, died in Hiroshima." For the past 20 years I have operated The Children's Peace Train in response to North Korea's threats to reduce Seoul to ashes in a "Sea of Fire." Children from all over the globe have participated in drawing pictures of Peace in their own life. My own two daughters, also a motivating factor, helped out.

DV: Jeremy, we've known each other for a long time. How did you get from being a lawyer to a writer? And especially, to a writer of poetry?

JS: In 1970, at the age of 24 I was the only lawyer in the Ministry of Land Reform and Administration for the Government of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia. As such, even though only a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, I had responsibilities way beyond my experience, including being secretary for an inter-ministerial committee discussing and revising a law I had proposed for land redistribution. This went up to the Crown Council and within a few years after my departure provoked a revolution. So where could I go from there? The rest of Africa was waiting and in particular the Congo where I traveled alone to visit the pigmies in the Ituri Forest. Earlier, while in Addis Ababa I had already drafted one novel and the pigmies provided an opportunity for another. After a year traveling in Africa I headed for India to seek spiritual understanding and this gave fruit to another draft of a novel. A few years later I arrived in Kyoto, Japan and met the poet Cid Corman, who would become my poetry mentor for the next 30 years until he passed away in 2004. My novels are tucked away and I haven't gotten back to them yet. Instead, Cid, through our weekly poetry workshop meetings during those two years in Kyoto, infected me as he said with the poetry "Bug."

DV: Cid Corman was a great man, though largely invisible to the general public. American poetry in the late 20th century would have been markedly different if he weren't in it.  I know that it's unfair to say that he only wrote minimalist poetry, but is he the source of the kind of poetry you usually write?

JS: Yes, Cid is the source of the poetry I usually write but it is not the way he wrote poetry. The freedom of lines and the relationship of the lines to the movement of action in the poems is not something he did, but he did introduce me to others whose arrangements of words could be more radical, like Frank Samperi or Larry Eigner who had to write in strung out sentences because of his physical handicap. Cid introduced me to a whole range of poets he was networking with and some became lifelong friends. John
Martone. who Jerome Rothenberg calls the finest minimalist poet in America and is a close friend, has gone far beyond everyone else in his ability to say so much with so few words and with such clarity and beauty and has been a standard-bearer of great poetry for me. Ed Baker. who has provided watercolor illustrations for some of my works. is also an inspiration. Bob Arnold is another, all of us learning from Cid. What Cid taught was to make every syllable count and to leave out everything that doesn't contribute to the wholeness and unity of the poem. Due to Cid's influence, it is hard to read a poem if the line extends beyond a certain width and the lines reach beyond a certain length. A short poem can strike to the heart with great beauty. A long poem is harder to sustain with quality throughout and can feel like prose arranged in strangely shaped stanzas. Great exceptions include long narrow poems like Asphodel by William Carlos Williams and the shorter My Life by Water by Lorine Niedecker, who was also influenced by Cid.

DV: Did you ever work extensively in haiku?

JS: No, I haven't worked in haiku at all, perhaps because of Cid's influence. I did read Wyeth's book when in Kyoto and various works at Cid's including his translation of Basho, Backroads to Far Places, but wanted to forge new ground and not be bound by any kind of standardized form and rather allow the subject and activity and feelings to shape its own form.  However in preparation for a course beginning next week on the Literature and Culture of Nature I am experiencing a renewed appreciation of haiku, even contemporary ones as found in The Unswept Path, and of course Basho, Issa, Ryokan and so many of the other Japanese masters. Even some modern writers I am reading have been able to make haiku form feel unaffected and as natural as a breeze or effortless turn of thought reflecting a moment, event and feeling. This can be achieved by a master like John Martone, who has written more than 100 books and has that flow which doesn't seem to need revisions. Others can attain it after long periods of review and revision, careful not to edit the life out of it -- Cid says to put a poem aside for 10 years! and then when the halo effect is worn off, look at it again. Every day and every moment we see with different eyes and hear with different ears and so the poetry is read differently, and often in my own case I have made poems worse, and discovering this on clearer days gone back again and again, maybe1,000 times. Only in moments of extreme tranquility and clarity can the original moments be recaptured and the right or better word find its way to the page.

DV: I well know that every poem has its own process of creation. But if you have a "typical" experience, from the moment of inspiration to the finished product at the end of the process, could you describe it to us?

JS: Well, for the poems that you are now showing it was a special process, an artistic series of movements written spontaneously as if on  a cloud. One day on a bus I noted the clouds blowing this way and that through the sky about the mountains, so I went there and walked and felt and wrote as it happened, poem after poem day after day, letting it come out in brief clarities. Later I recreated the movement with the spreading out of the words, and very few of those words have changed. It was a rare period of being in tune with the movements of nature. As for most other poems, I have kept going back again and again, changing this word or that, hearing and sounding it and then re-looking and re-hearing, and if I leave enough space in between and persist enough, and then wait again for the halos to wear off, those poems can regain a naturalness if the original perceptions of beauty and wonder were truly heart- or soul-felt, leaving an indelible impression implanted that could be re-seen, re-breathed. Always the process includes re-looking and hearing and feeling to see if there are any unnecessary words or whether the words can be rephrased for brevity that makes the poem more immediate and alive. It needs in the end to be a living breathing entity, one that the reader can breathe in and experience.

DV: For as long as I've known you, you've used your vacation time to travel the globe. This is in addition to the various places you lived and worked before arriving in Korea. Have any of these places left its mark on your poems or your poetic sensibility?

JS: My two years in Japan and nearly 35 in Seoul, Korea, have inspired me the most, because of the long periods involved. Another source for poetry has been India, which I have been pilgrimaging to since 1975 and have  written a poem of one-word lines running down the middle of the page for some 200 pages, titled Once in India. To illustrate, here is a sample from a section about the Ganges at Benares:






cold ~




Also, I traveled to Vietnam with my 12 year old daughter Chalina, where we stayed in an old palace converted into a hotel by the seashore. There the airy rooms, high whitewashed walls and net hammocks produced an atmosphere for writing fatherly love poems about my daughter. This was published in a bi-lingual edition in France by AIOU in 2001 under the title, Vietnam Diary.


 Another country which has inspired poems is Israel. There are  two sets of Peace poems, one focused on a visit to a Druze village on the Lebanon border.



And oh, yes, as part of my unpublished book Cherry Blossoms, along with sections from Kyoto and Seoul, there is a section about Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C..

When Japanese
sent over

those trees
we got married

Going further back, I have discovered a poem from my Africa days, 1973, that ends:
we danced,
frog mooing
cicada humming
dove cooing
'till, tired, on leaves
in  a small grass hut
we slept

DV: Your poems often have a dreamlike, ethereal quality to them. Are dreams ever part of your creative process?

JS: Certainly. Often dreams, as I learned from Cid's examples, can be turned into wondrous prose poems. I have made many of such, and also presented a whole book of Oriental Birth Dreams, editing the contributors' dreams as well as some of my own to read like prose poetry, and in some case condensed into actual poems. The present book, also finished and over three years in the making called Dragon Dreams, also contains many prose poem dreams, mostly those of others, but also some of my own.

For example:

     On March 7th, 2013, I awoke from a dream:

            I am sitting with Eloisia by a small round, white metal table at a large restaurant. Near us, great curved windows let in light from a park outdoors. She is feeling sad, so I suggest we stand in the curving line of customers and order food. She has already sipped a glass of milk elsewhere but it had tasted bland and unsatisfying. At the counter, a buxom blond Danish woman, who is wearing a white apron over a colorful-pattern dress, waits on us. She smiles, “What would you like?” I reply automatically, “Two milks, please!” Surely, Eloisia wouldn't be pleased! (Yet, what else do you order when facing a charming milkmaid?)

            The Danish waitress hands me two cans decorated like Pepsi cans with the same red and silver colors, except that these taper gracefully at the waist. Each is designed with a jolly, scaly dragon. Words printed under its open, smiling jaws read “DRAGON MILK!”     
            Amazed, I exclaim, “DRAGON MILK! That's just what we need: DRAGON MILK! I should take a picture of this!”

            Alas, I forgot my camera. No matter; we can swallow the milk and carry the cans home

The book Dragon Dreams also contains regular poems at the start of each chapter. For example:

Pen Pal,

Dragon ink
River bends
And loops

Carries a
Mystic ball

In the form
Of an eye -
Cursive is

Spirit writing,

By ghosts -
A monster

Pens Life
And swallows
Itself up,


DV: Well, on that humorous note, let's end this session. I know I've enjoyed getting an insight into how your creative mind works, and I hope your readers have found something valuable as well. Thanks for your time and honesty.

Laurie Kuntz writes and shoots

Evening light settles,
struck by the full moon--
if my heart could be this purple.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jeremy Toombs writes

Goan Ocean Unfriendly

Oh, the power is apparent
in the curl of the ten foot waves of the sea.
Please, just let me be!
I’m gonna stay out.
Watch you come in.
Goan beach side, I ain’t coming back again.
Unfriendly sea. Mad dogs raving around.

This here ain’t no part of no joke.
There’s nothing to tell:
fishermen with empty nets,
clouds emptying on me.
Goa’s like hell without the flames,
just rains all the time.

Who’s to blame?
God by any name, or
just evaporation collecting in the clouds
and coming back down?


Robert Lee Haycock shoots

Lost Slough

Joseph Lisowski writes


Winter wood

Without green


Brown, gray


And out

The sky


As old earth

Its slow turn


With night,


Like bones

Long dead.

Laurie Kuntz writes and shoots

Stifling intentions
wires stop the overgrowth
of purple plans.

Leonard Cohen says

Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak about love. If you want to impress me when you speak about love put your hand in your pocket or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.

This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.

Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them. 

The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers’ Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps and sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice or the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.

Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the image of my beauty.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kannadasa Dasan wtites


Who can write her worth?
The world of sacred birth
My lovely mother earth!
Young and old –please arise
And sing unto the space
Wonder of her praise!

Gardens where the birds sing
Where rabbits and cats blink
This world is fine!
World where the poets walk
Where orators and writers talk
My life is THINE!

All nations are my paths
All oceans are my ponds
Humans are my friends!
The forests are my parks
The animals are my pets
Hills are my books!

Her history is splendor vast
The nights are passing so fast
To great new days!
Long ago she won my heart
I dine in thy lovely resort
Where her fame grows!


Keith Francese writes


she has a fondness for blossoms,

she says.

the ones that line the walk along the river Han.

a mosquito has fallen


on the white-papered wall.

a blemish unwashable mostly me.

a good day for a picnic, she says,

if we can get out of bed.

she, ambitious. she,

undulating spotlessnesses.

I think only


Laurie Kuntz writes and shoots

Waiting for the peacock
to show its plumage
but what do I show the peacock?

Allison Grayhurst sculpts


Friday, November 27, 2015

KianaRose writes

Massacre in Blue

Let’s paint the world blue with aspartame and hydrochloric acid. 
We can pour it into coke bottles, 
You can’t drink,  
And watch the color float away;  
Then, paint the world blue, 

Tongues can’t lie

If they are melted to your teeth.
So color them cerulean
To contrast powdered bodies.
Navy flesh oozing off
Sea-foam bones.

We can paint blood sapphire, with a sweet, glittered shine;  
A mountain stream of coagulated tissue. 
Pour it into coke bottles,  
You can’t drink,  
And we could be blue,

Acid syrup, rotting teeth  
Pearly, electric 
Hello, Skull.  
Hello, Blue 
Babies turned stone bones. 

We digress.  
We turn blue.

And amidst the chaos, 
Mingling with the coke bottles,  
You can’t drink,  

Allison Grayhurst sculpts


Laurie Kuntz writes and shoots

A butterfly in November
no, just a falling feather
from an egret in flight

Maria Egel writes

A Young Girl’s War and Peace - Part One

Spring was late in coming, my mom said, and so was I, her third daughter. May 15, rainy and cold, with still a wintery bite to it, was even unusual for the Bavarian Woods. I am sure there was gladness that I had all the right numbers of fingers and toes, but real joy would have been felt had I been a boy. 

My dad was so hoping for a son. A male child, who would grow up to be of help to him on the farm and in his workshop. A strong, healthy boy, he could finally brag about to his drinking buddies at the inn. They had a wager and about 80% predicted another girl. That would cost him a few rounds.

At least, the teasing would keep them occupied that evening and push aside the arguments about Mister Hitler and his war. Adolf  Hitler and his war! Every time they sat together, they ruminated on its pros and cons. Compulsive military service was re-introduced, the Versailles Peace Treaty was torn to shreds, and suddenly there was a law about who is or is not a Jew. The Nurnberg Laws. After a hard day's work and a few beers, Hitler’s propaganda was echoed as to who had it coming to them, who was living high on their sweating, broken backs and who should finally pay the price.  Poverty and the miserable life they led had to be somebody’s fault.

In America, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, a much envied deed. “He knows that the sweat that runs off the back of the working masses comes at a cost, he knows what’s right.” They had forgotten that Otto von Bismarck had started the same retirement pension and National Health Insurance in the late nineteen century in Germany. Eventually, Adolf  Hitler promised to enhance the above, guaranteeing him an increase of friends. While in America, jazz became swing, and Sinclair Lewis penned the book, "It Can't Happen Here," it all started to happen in my home land.

I was four years old when my brother was born, after another girl before him. My dad was coming home from working in the fields when the neighbor lady asked him, “What is it, Karl, boy or another girl?” Don’t ask, he answered. The fallowing Sunday was baptism and when the priest asked what the name of the child will be and the answer was Karl, the priest opened the diaper to check because he did not want to stick a girl with a boy's name just because. Finally, Dad had the last laugh. 

Laughs were rare. In 1939, Hitler marched into Poland and soon one country after another fall under the heels of the Mad Dictator and his powerful army. With promises and lies, more and more young men were marching to certain death. That was my early childhood, poverty and war.

Maria Egel writes

A Young Girl's War and Peace - Part Two 

My first teacher, tall and blond, with a Swastika on her starched, white blouse, told us that our Bavarian greeting of “Gruess Gott” was no longer allowed, and that from now on it would be “Heil Hitler” to honor our great Fuehrer. We practiced this new greeting until we all had the salute's right angle and the right height. I was a first grader.

Our teacher told us that the sacrifices the German people had to make was due to ”them.” They betrayed the goodness of Germany, they became rich at our expense, they trampled on our trust, they had no other name, they, of course were the Jews.

She told us one day that she would make us strong and brave, worthy to be Hitler Youth, children who had no weaknesses or fears. One method of turning us into this strong and powerful new race was to start our education as soon as possible. On a dark and cold night, she had us, the primary classes, stay in the forest all night. The feeling of fun and adventure turned quickly into terror. She assigned each one of us to sit under a tree, far apart from each other, so we would feel swallowed up by the giant forest, rely only on ourselves. We were not allowed to leave or to speak to anyone all night.

Mom asked me to watch over my 5 year old sister, who had just entered Kindergarten. But where was she now, I wondered? “Dear God," I prayed, "let her fall asleep, and don’t lead the teacher her way.”

The familiar daytime forest soon became a hostile entity. The total blackness, the cries of the owls, the wind whistling through the tree tops, small animals scurrying through the woods, a fox creeping around a tree, all of it became the enemy, ready to devour us. By morning, fear had plastered us to our tree and we were soaked with our own urine and sweat, too exhausted to care whether we would be able to master the next feat.

Our teacher knew that none of us could swim, but that was no reason not to have us cross the wild mountain river on wet, slippery boulders. She made us stop halfway across to look into the deepest part of the churning water and commanded us “to defy death.” We all defied death by sheer luck.

Perhaps our teacher taught some of us bravery, the fourteen year olds, who were later sent to defend the bridges and borders of the Fatherland, the Fatherland, whose core had collapsed a long time ago. What did she teach me? Hatred and Fear!

One day, she made me stand for hours in front of the Fuehrer’s picture, my arm raised in the Hitler Salute, because I did not correctly answer her question, ”How far has our brave army advanced overnight?" So, I stood. My woolen stockings itched behind my knees, but I was not able to scratch. I remembered how wrinkled and not so clean my skirt was, now a show for the whole class. To keep my thoughts from having to go to the bathroom, I counted all my ugly freckles, pretending they were soldiers marching toward the enemy, my teacher.

A peculiar mix of emotions wormed itself into our lives. The excitement of marching bands, soldiers in grey uniforms and shiny black boots, singing songs of comradery, and colorful banners flying in the wind was covering the anxiety of ever more young men finding their graves on foreign soil. 

While we children ran alongside the soldiers, throwing kisses at them, the grown ups watched behind closed curtains. Later, when I described such an event to my mom, she asked me, ”What if those marching boots were after you?” From that moment on, without knowing it, a part of me was always on the run with every Polish, Gypsy and Jewish child. Much later I found out that they all fell under the merciless heels of the Nazis and that I alone survived.

Maria Egel writes

A Young Girl's War and Peace - Part Three 

Dad was the only young man in the village who was not drafted into the army. He had lost his right thumb and a bit of a finger while showing off his very own electric saw with a bit too much enthusiasm. He was a farmer in summer and a wagonwright in winter. His assignment was to keep the meager existence of the surrounding farming villages alive. That, and being unable to pull the trigger of a gun, kept him from becoming a soldier. One of his nightly duties was to walk through the village to make sure it was swallowed up by total darkness. Every bit of light that showed through the cracks of the window covers had to be reported and corrected before the enemy could find us.

I loved to accompany Dad on this job. His rough, calloused hands held mine tightly and I felt safe. We talked, and I filtered out the things that I had to forget quickly so that I would never betray him. Dad thought the “blindfolded” houses looked like “has-been movie stars” hiding behind dark glasses. He thought the best way to keep the enemy away was to show them our poverty, not to hide it.

I once asked Dad why we suddenly had so many enemies. “It is like cocks in a barn yard,” he said. “The more cornered they feel, the uglier they get. Once they have conquered a little scratching place, they want the whole yard, that is where we are now.” 

He was worried about the government inspector giving the farmers a hard time, because they could never produce their quota of eggs, milk and wheat. If you had two cows, so many liters of milk had to be delivered to the “central” station. The same was true for eggs. “Hitler might have programmed us people,” he said, “but the cows still don’t give milk while carrying a calf, and the hens still stop laying eggs through the cold winter months. They continue to do their things as always– but Maria, what happened to us, what happened to us?” We were totally snowed in and Dad said the village reminded him of "a giant bear in apparent hibernation” but always, always listening.

On one of our nightly trips, Dad thanked me for helping Mama carry the books to the village square to be burned. Papa knew that Mama and I brought all the wrong books to feed the fire and that we hid a couple in the straw stuffed mattress. We had so few books, a mere armful. The young officer, in his steel gray uniform with eyes to match, told Mama, "None of your books are on the list to be burned." “Oh” mama said innocently, “we brought them all, we did not want to make a mistake,” as she quickly pocketed the slip of paper that would keep further inspection at bay for a while. Mama lied, and she trusted me with her lie. I knew that hidden under her mattress was her poetry book by Heinrich Heine, a Jew.

One afternoon, while my parents were working in the fields and I was home alone babysitting my two younger siblings, two Gestapo men came to the house, accompanied by a local man who was supposed to be our friend. Not so long ago, my sister and I would braid his beautiful long beard when he came to sit at our supper table. Now, his face was clean shaven and he brought strangers into our home, knowing that my parents were not at home. “Girl, we know that your father has hidden something, show us where,” demanded one of the strangers. I did know where, because a couple of nights before I was awakened by a noise and I peeked out the window and saw my dad bury something in the garden. “Show us the place,” he said roughly, pulling on my braids. My tongue would not co-operate to form words, until one of the men grabbed my sleeping baby brother by his feet and let him dangle upside down and I heard his piercing cry.

I showed the men the freshly worked ground and there they found a sack of seedling potatoes Dad was trying to save for planting in the spring. Dad was taken away for interrogation and held for a week. He never told us children what happened during that time, we only knew that he had great difficulty walking for a long time. 

One day, an important document was delivered to our house. It said that a cargo of people was on the way to our village and Dad was to distribute them on the farms and keep a record of them. 

They were from Poland, and because the German men were fighting at some front, probably their very front, they were picked up and sent here to help on the farms. Mama read the letter and said, "Please don’t bring any of them home. If they know farm work, they should be home taking care of their own fields, and if they do not, what help would they be to us? We cannot afford to feed an extra mouth."

We children fallowed Dad to see the newcomers. A truckload of people arrived, young men and women, sad looking, tired and frightened. Their heads were shaved and all wore an I.D. tag around the neck. Our shameless staring must have made them feel like they were animals in the zoo.

By evening, all but one was placed. His name tag said “Durza Domna.” He sat curled up in the corner all by himself. Even the others on the truck avoided him. Was he dead? My dad gently poked his shoulders and he lifted his face. It was full of open, seeping sores, and he was dirty and smelled awful. He went home with us. Why did Dad not pick the young lady with the pretty smile, or any one else for that matter?  Mama won’t like this. Mama took one look at Durza Domna, put a large pot of water on the stove and readied the wooden bathtub in Dad’s workshop. Soon, bathed and dressed in Dad’s clean overalls and flannel shirt, he sat at the table and practically inhaled our leftover supper, potato soup and black bread, our usual fare. We called him “Domneck,” but how we got to that name, I don’t remember. 

We had a tree in the garden Mama called the “balsam tree.” From its sticky blossoms and alcohol, she would make every possible healing potion. Soon, his many sores healed, and Mama said, "With a little love from us the unseen wounds will heal also." Domneck was always afraid of our dad and was happiest when he could help Mom in the kitchen. Domneck would sit in the kitchen after the outdoor chores were done and became the best babysitter. He had a voice like an angel and those haunting, Polish melodies would tear our heart apart. He could not read or write and his signature was just an “X.” When we laughed at the idea that a grown man could not read or write or sign his own name, things we all could do as children, Mama gave us this reason:. “The world and the people in it have treated him so badly, they do not deserve to know his name.” Besides, she said, "His signature is his beautiful voice.”

Our daily lives became even more secretive and shabby. Mama would encourage Dad, “Go, sit with your friends for a while” and then she would worry until she could hear the echo of his wooden shoes coming down the street. Dad and his friends had been listening to BBC, a crime punishable with life.

Slowly, the village became packed with refugees from bombed out cities all over Germany. Russian and American armies were galloping toward us from opposite directions. Domneck, who had learned a little German, would tell Mama how scared he was of the Russians, so we all hoped it would be the Americans who would reach us first .

Maria Egel writes

A Young Girl's War and Peace - Part Four 

Hitler was dead. A white bed sheet was strung up on the church steeple, flapping in the wind.  It was to tell the world that we surrendered. Old Xaverl, with about four teeth left to hold a cold pipe in his mouth, sneered, “What do they think,we fight them off with, rotten cabbage?” His pipe was as cold as his hands; he had run out of tobacco years ago.

The village church was packed with women, children and a few old men. We were praying that the American Army should reach us before the Russians did. Our village lies deep in the Bavarian Woods, about twenty miles from the Czech border, so we were told it could be either one. But we knew one or the other would reach us within hours. Often, it was only the priest's voice that carried on, as we were too frightened to answer even with an "Amen".

Suddenly our waiting was over. The noise of the heavy tanks coming up the unpaved road drowned out everything else. After a short paralysis caused by fear, our priest left the altar and headed toward the exit and we followed, scared, but needing to know who was at the other side of the door.

It seemed neither Russia nor America had found us, but Africa. Huge tanks as far as the eye could see filled with black men. We learned later that they were African–American soldiers and that they were segregated from the white army. Until that moment, we had only seen black faces in books and through the eyes of the missionaries. But here they were in our village shouting in a language unfamiliar to us. They must have noticed our fear, because as they jumped off the tanks, grinning, they started throwing little packages at us children. We stood there frozen and watched while one of the soldiers, unwrapping something, popped it in his mouth and chewed on it vigorously, his face one big smile. The first brave one among us was ten year old George. Imitating the soldier, he ripped the paper open, put the same pink something in his mouth and started grinning from ear to ear. We needed no other invitation, and quickly we all fell in love with something strange but oh so delightful, called chewing gum. One of so many firsts!  

The African–American soldiers put up tents outside the village, right where the Russian prisoners were kept a few month earlier. In the evening, they came to collect the firewood that was stacked in front of each house. The old farmers were not happy about that, but they also knew how cold those tents must be, unprotected from that icy Bavarian wind.

Months later their white counterparts arrived. They moved into the farmhouses and came equipped with bunk beds and huge duffle bags. We had twelve men taking over our upstairs bedrooms. My dad was angry, my mom scared, and we kids walked around with our mouths agape. First we saw men as black as coal, and now we were sharing our home with total strangers. What frightened Mom was that none of us spoke or understood this strange language, "English," that none of our doors had locks on them, that she had two teenage daughters to protect, seven children to keep an eye on, and now had a platoon of American solders under the same roof. Our main room was the living-dining room and kitchen, and now it became the sleeping quarters for seven kids. Our mattresses, straw stuffed burlap sacks, were lined up, wall to wall.

Sitting around the supper table one evening, Mama mentioned that she now had a photo of each soldier’s family. I was impressed, wondering how she was able to do that without speaking their language, but our dad was less complementary. "Why in the world do you want pictures of total strangers?" My mom smiled and said, "Now that I have seen that somewhere in America there is a wife, a child, or sweetheart waiting for them, they are no longer such strangers and we need to be less afraid."

My father was a wagon master and one of the solders was always in his workshop, making a nuisance of himself. The other soldiers called him "Pitcher." When he would find a round piece of wood, a couple of feet long, he would run into the yard and swing it like crazy. Soon my dad got to know which hunks of wood would keep the crazy American happy and out of his workshop. Pitcher would swing the piece of wood and we would watch and giggle after realizing that he was not going to clobber us with it. We did not know of baseball then, and to this day every pitcher I see is the one practicing his swing in our village.

Our favorite soldier by far was a man they called "Reese." He was a skinny little guy, who was never able to stand still. We wondered how he could march and we imitated his dancing walk. He took his rifle wherever he went, even to the outhouse. The word "Riese" in German means giant, so we knew it had to be his nickname.

The months went by quickly. The outside world was still in great turmoil but in our house we settled down to a peculiar but peaceful life with this sudden extended family. Many memories crowd into that year, but by far the most exciting and lingering is that of Christmas Eve.
The freshly cut evergreen tree was standing in the corner, all dressed up with homemade decorations, its candles lit. A huge pot of potato soup was bubbling on the wood–fired stove, while pumpernickel bread was cooling on the kitchen counter. My parents thought the men living above us would be homesick on this special evening, so Mom asked me to go upstairs and invite the soldiers to join us for supper. How in the world would I manage that? I was eleven years old. My timid knocking was drowned out by the ruckus and laughter of the men, but when the door suddenly opened, I forgot what I was there for. Finally I got my wits together and started waving my hands like crazy while walking backwards, hopefully indicating that they should follow me. To my amazement and pride they understood my wild gestures and I felt like a shepherd.

Mom pointed at the soup and bread and with big smiles they acknowledged the invitation. One of the soldiers went to fetch their mess kits and after a second thought handed them out to us kids. For the first time we children ate soup out of individual dishes, while the soldiers ate from the big communal soup bowls. On of the men pointed at a piece of potato on his spoon, then cupped his hands to indicate a whole potato. After repeating this gesture several times, it was my six year old brother Karl who understood his quest. "Mom, I think he wants a whole potato?” Well, that was one of the few things we could offer, if Karl was right. Then the feasting began.  Reese put a big pot on the stove, melting down something white from a can, while another soldier started peeling potatoes. Usually this was my job, pealing the potatoes for the Sunday dumplings, and I was good at it. I even had a special little knife to do the job. But the soldiers had a gadget that was amazing. It would skim over the potato, taking only the skin, without ever cutting their fingers. It was called a "Potato Peeler," and they left it for me at their departure.

But, I am digressing from the important part of my story. Reese sliced the potatoes thinly then dropped them into the melted hot stuff, after a few minutes removed and drained them on newspaper, sprinkled them with a little salt and served us our very first "POTATO CHIP."  Our hands and mouths were soon slippery with fat, our eyes shone and our taste buds danced with sheer delight. We never ate anything so delicious, and to think we had all the makings for it in our very own cellar.

One of the soldiers noticed the special ornaments hanging on the tree, which Mom had made out of wood shavings and the photos of the soldiers' families. The pleasure over that small kindness showed on their faces. Our dad, encouraged by the generous sharing of the Americans' "Jack Daniels" started singing "Stille Nacht." We kids knew that Dad could not sing and quickly chimed in to help him out. When the soldiers recognized the tune they joined in, singing "Silent Night." The walls of our old house vibrated with good cheer. The village was lying isolated and pillowed in deep snow. The howling mountain wind accompanied the strange mixture of voices in different languages. A celebration of Christmas, and it heralded in a new and promising year.

"Silent Night" was followed by many more American songs, but one in particular made the tears flow. Many years later, after coming to America, I heard it again.  It was called "Home on the Range".

That night we children laid curled up next to each other, far away from black marching jackboots and safely surrounded by our very own army of homesick soldiers. That night, we dreamed of potato chips and roaming antelopes and a far away land.