Fall 2009

Table of Contents - Vol. V, No. 3


Poetry    Reviews    Fiction   

David W. Landrum


United States Soldiers in Italy---End of World War II

It was paradox even to those who did know the word.
Stretched out, the Tuscan hills---the fields of wheat
and lavender, vines that took root
before the Romans came, when the Etruscans
lived and farmed beneath this sun;
buildings ancient when American was formed;
clustered towns where the horde of years
gave dignity to roofs and privy stalls---
yet here rivers of blood had flowed
and countless battles raged.
Even after the Italians surrendered the Germans fought on:
Anzio, Monte Cassino, the massacre at Saint Anna de Stazzena;
and Mussolini and his woman hung up by their feet and shot;
the Jews captured, detained, then herded off to Auschwitz.
Here in the land of food, of beauty, art, and hospitality,
levies broke and death spilled out in flood.

Some knew, of course, this was the root of Rome:
forge of short-swords, dye-vat of red capes
that signified violence and tyranny
around the sea they called "our sea" and north
to Gaul and Britain, east to the Euphrates.
A few miles from where they were garrisoned,
the Florentines betrayed, murdered and fought.
Dante’s bitter exile came from here;
the mercenary Englishman Hawkwood
(the Italians called him the devil incarnate)
rode down these roads. All raised their swords.
But roses climb the rough-hewn walls
one time besieged, and poppies blossom in the battlefields.
It seems remote, history a made-up tale.

The guns are quiet. The stunned silence
of what has been
falls down like dust and makes rejoicing sad.
Ecstatic celebration quickly fades
when legions of the dead march back
into their memories: those whom they knew
and slept beside, ate with, sweated beside
in battle; or the ones they never knew---real ghosts
whose deaths dotted the hills of Italy
just as flowers dotted hills, lined paths.

They will exchange the sleepy Tuscan fields
for Indiana, Michigan, New York.
Yet Italy will lodge in their remembrance.
Here they learned beauty and death entwine---
the poisoned plant lodged in the lily path,
the serpent coiled at the lovely maiden’s feet,
the unseen plague riding the fragrant wind.


Reflections on My Son's Twenty-Fifth Birthday

June 3, 2009

There is a wound that every man must heal,
inflicted by his father. It may come
from anger or ambition or the zeal
to see his longings realized in his son;
it may arise from dreams he had to leave
behind but thinks his boy can salvage them,
show up at the last hour to reprieve
his failure, the goals that eluded him;
it may be drunkenness or bullying,
withdrawal or bitterness---a myriad
of subtle injuries fathers can bring
to make their sons bitter, angry, or sad.

I only hope the years, in passing, see
healing of hurts, wholeness of memory.


© David W. Landrum



Poetry    Reviews    Fiction   

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