“War Work (Brooklyn, 1944-45)’

Click here   to listen to Barry Goldensohn read this poem.

After Hiroshima and surrender
I woke one night to a great noise and saw
the sky turn white then red. I ran to my parents
who were awake and talking in their bed
and yelled that they had dropped an atom bomb
on Manhattan. Even at 8 years old
I knew the right direction from my war work.
Father and I were masters of the deck
of silhouettes for rooftop aircraft spotters.
We quizzed each other, learning to distinguish
the slender Messerschmitt from Mustang,
all the Stukas, Heinkels, Junkers, tell
the chunky Flying Fortress from the long
Dornier bombers and we all loved
our daring modern ace, graceful, slim,
the Lockheed Lightning with its twin booms.

From the roof of our apartment house we saw
only the Parachute Jump in Coney Island
and the sun-struck Empire State and Chrysler towers. 
If we saw German planes (we never did)
we could calculate their air speed
and know their payload of bombs.

I kept a cool head as I shook in fear.
They said it was a storm, thunder, lightning,
and led me back to bed but I knew my parents
lied to pacify me. I stayed awake,
heard the fearful murmur of their talk
and lay beyond comfort in the oncoming dawn.