By Michael Ryan
(posted Wednesday, Feb. 5; to be composted Wednesday, Feb. 12)
To hear the poet read “Dream Pun,” click here or on the title.
I don’t know how I knew
the signalman was the signalman.
His fuzzy red-brown hair
the color of blood? I knew
he wasn’t just a waiter carrying a tray
when he pushed through the rathskeller
doing the Hitler salute–not straight up
Sieg Heil but the lateral one,
elbow-fulcrum on his shoulder’s plane,
hand (made into blade) starting at his heart
sweeping the quadrant in front of him
as if only to clear a path
through the jolly, blocked aisle.
You weren’t the woman at the tall table
I was sitting with,
where we eat together most of the time
watching the sky change at sunset
and talking about our day
(characters from each other’s lives
flickering ghostlike through that gorgeous air)–
nor was I speaking to her
when he pushed through doing the Hitler salute
that meant run right then to save myself.
There wasn’t time for a word to her.
The bomb exploded as I got out the door.
You know what it was like in there.
You’ve listened to me so many hours
depicting aftermaths of my blunt shame.
The place had been jammed, everyone drunk,
the cellar had kept the explosion in–
pillowed, muffled, a brief hot thud
within thick earth-sunk concrete walls.
But oh my God what it had done.
I crawled back into the rubble
searching for her, until I saw
the work I had to do now.
What had happened had happened,
I’d never know how. I had to help with
the wounded and haul out the dead.