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After D-Day by Judith Barrington

 Ooops, pardon the technical difficulty!  This post is now on the correct page. 

In my first memoir-writing workshop, taught by Hettie Jones, Hettie gave us a list of recommended books to read, a list she compiled, she told us, by raising her eyes from her desk and looking at her shelf.  Classics of the genre were “recommended.”  The only volume that was mandatory was “the Barrington book”:  Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington

A writing teacher and memoirist (her own memoir, Lifesaving, is exquisite) and poet, Judith was kind enough to become my friend on Facebook and to share her thoughts on this website.  She has agreed to allow me to post some of “After D-Day,” her memoir-in-poem that details both the Normandy invasion and her own launch into life.  You can find all of parts 1, 2 and 3 of the poem at the website best poem journal.  And in a few weeks, Judith will discuss the poem via an e-terview, so stay tuned!

“After D-Day”

One:  Gestation
What does it mean to be born in war – to enter the fray
as Spitfires and Messerschmitts fall from on high
into the farmland I’ll grow up to walk on Sundays?

What does it mean to be born as walls fly
and live electric wires swoop to the ground
sending their sparks up into the flak-filled sky?

Still inside my mother, I shudder at the sounds
muffled by the amniotic fluid:
the steady drone of Luftwaffe bombers, northbound

to London, or banking to turn above the wooded
weald of Sussex and dump their bombs on the hill
or on towns where air raid shelters are dark and crowded.

The planets line up, astrology holding its vigil,
but more is defining this birth that the lie of the stars:
an air raid begins, my mother frightened but docile;

windows explode and I’ll enter a home that’s at war.
They’ll surround me with pillows on that first summer day
but the screams of the wounded will root in my newborn ear. 

and a piece of stanza 4

Inside my mother’s belly through April and May
I kick a bit while the armies arrive en masse
Americans soon have their hosts saying “hi” and “okay”

and girls, sick of rationing, warm to their largesse.
A division of Poles, Canadian troops and Free French
chatter in various languages – men who said yes

to the call, now squeezed into bunks that fill every inch
inside the camouflaged Quonset and Nissen huts
from Channel to Thames, by Dartmouth, Strete and Kingsbridge.

In battledress with heavy boots, tin helmets
and all the kit they’ll need when they get to France,
they practice on Devon beaches where one of my aunts

sunbathed before the war, her only defense
a folded newspaper sunhat shading her nose;
she could never have foreseen this coming violence.

To read all that has been posted, please to best poem journal.