The Missouri of Memory (1945)
“I’ll never forget it,” my mother said
whether or not it had happened.
In the end she forgot it. No wonder.
I can’t keep the facts straight either.
Take that ceremony aboard the battleship.
It was “engraved in my mind,” but I confused
the date. I thought it was August.
That was the month we dropped
the bombs. They waited until September
to sign the Terms of Surrender.
I listened in my room on the first radio
I ever had. At age eight, I listened
with bated breath as if a last-minute hitch
might prevent the men from signing, prolonging
the War for the rest of my life!
But they signed! They signed! MacArthur
wearing his khaki shirt, the Japanese minister
in his top hat of shame. I wanted the sorry world
to change then and there, becoming a ballroom
for President Truman clad in ermine.
Citizens would bring their wronged lives
for him to put right. I’d bring my father,
tired and ill on account of the War and a bad heart.
But that day he got out of bed.
We walked to the village where bells
were pealing. We sang thankful hymns
on the second of September, a month
I would have remembered as happy except
that the tired heart stopped
on the twenty-fourth, though I’m not sure—
it might have been the day before.
She spots it through the window
of a scarred hum-vee—
the post she has studied
before coming, but in photos.
Now her mental image takes on mass,
dimension, color, odor, so
she begins to know
it’s real. She tells a guy in her platoon.
He looks at her with pity in his face:
“O.K. You figured out that it exists.
Did you think they’d made it up?”
No, she knew it exists.
Yes, they made it up. Yes,
she will be lonely in this place.
These poems are from my book, Wars don’t happen anymore (Deerfield Editions, 2015)
© 2019 Sarah White
© 2019 Sarah White
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