Detonations, Victory Garden
My grandmother held her knitting
needles, sliding them in and out
of green wool-socks for her middle son,
the medic. My youngest uncle hid under the table,
toy rifle on his shoulder-aimed
at the shaded window, he held sounds
in his throat-exploding bullets, planes going down.
My mother held my sister, only three,
she sucked her fingers, rubbed
her blanket's frayed edge against her cheek.
They all held their breath as
the buzz bombs rasped over.
In the field across the road,
the earth held ten duds, long missiles
of endings, miscalculations, rooms
where no one slept. In the morning,
cows grazed beside dead bombs,
ten absolutions. My relatives grasped
their luck and went on living
which explains why
we huddled under the table
once when thunder took my mother
by surprise and she remembered waiting
for the sound of bombs long ago
in another country, and afterwards,
us to a world where nothing haunted the air
over our house. Today, when I read
about two little boys in Afghanistan
who found yellow balls
half-buried in the soft dirt of the play yard,
I know why the two women who saw
the boys' pleasure torn from them
scattering flesh and bone,
began to clear the village of bombs
dropped months ago. Bombs
the size of soda cans, easily confused
with packages of food, bright leaflets
raining down. Vibrating bombs
that burned their hands
and pressed into their hearts
as they carried them to a hollow
and mounded them with straw.
They held matches to the pile
and hid to watch the lives not taken
shatter the evening sky.
Across the country, my sister reads
the same story and when we talk
later on the phone, saying how brave
those women were, how danger was an after-thought,
I know my sister remembers being held
hostage to the dark intervals
between silence and listening,
tight in our mother's embrace,
before I was born, before we understood
how easily the earth absorbs
land mines, bombs, bodies blown apart,
how difficult the struggle from its arms.
My grandmother slit the rabbits' throats,
pried potatoes from the dirt.
When sirens split the air
she smoked unfiltered Players
and unraveled out-grown sweaters,
until the all-clear sounded.
Black-out shades lifted, the day fell back
into rooms where buzz bombs had shaken
pictures from walls, dishes from shelves.
At night, something slipped into rooms
and pulled the covers down. Each sleeper woke exposed,
dreams excised like pages from diaries.
In the morning my grandmother cracked eggs into a bowl,
slid the rashers into the frying pan,
said, Pay no attention to him, when the dog
turned his back on the extended hand
of the son home on leave,
and crawled under the couch.
Under the starched uniform: sharp creased
pants, polished shoes, khaki shirt
the dog smelled death. My grandmother knew
that scent: barley water, rain
on sheets hanging to dry. The morning
wind dragged the German pilot
through the trees and left him
dangling, broken, nobody saw the sky
unfurl his parachute.
The jackdaws circled and circled,
afraid for their nests.
My grandmother pulled on rubber boots.
The lettuce was ready for picking
and the peas. She had a household to manage,
a family and ghosts to feed.