Air Raid Drill
In first grade at Frederick Harris School
after learning the Pledge of Allegiance
Miss Worcester lined us up
and led us to the basement
where we knelt down by the wooden lunch tables
put one arm behind our head and waited.
This was a drill, a practice, we were told
something we would need to do in case the Russians bombed us.
John Cameron Swayze talked about the Russians on our new Philco television.
All the men talking on the news were very serious.
No one ever said when the bomb would come
but it would be soon; that seemed certain.
Lying in my maple bed at night
I would stare at the stars out the window
wondering what I would do
if the Russians dropped the bomb at night.
I decided that I would crawl under the bed
and pray next to the dust kitties.
I did not know then of Hiroshima
only six years before
I did not know then that it was my country
“One nation under God”
that had dropped the bomb
on real little girls
scared in their own beds.
On the corner of the street
next to the empty lot we used to cut through
lived the old rabbi and his wife.
I don’t remember their names
or even what they looked like.
What I cannot forget
are the numbers–
Blue black numbers
branded into the creped skin
of her forearm.
Concentration Camp, someone whispered.
Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau
I had heard the names.
I had read about Mengele,
the efficient numbering system,
the showers that did not clean.
But here were these numbers
right in front of me
present and indelible.
They were the closest
I had come to the slaughter
until I visited Amsterdam.
Anne Frank’s house
A bookcase becomes a door
leading to a flight of stairs to the secret annex
where Anne and seven others hid for 761 days.
All is quiet and solemn
as we walk through the drab rooms
as if still wary of Nazi sirens.
Anne’s room was different.
Over her bed the wall was full of smiling faces–
pictures of movie stars she had cut from magazines.
Had I not done the same thing–
searched the pages of Photoplay and Modern Screen
for images of Paul Newman or Tab Hunter?
We had both been young, innocent, and frivolous,
but I was alive
and she had been killed.
Then they appeared again–
the numbers on the rabbi’s wife’s arm.
Now on Anne’s young arm
now on my own.
V. Jane Schneeloch, Springfield, Massachusetts, has either been writing or encouraging others to write for most of her life. Retired from teaching English, she has led writing workshops for youths, senior citizens, and incarcerated women. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and two collections: Turning Over Leaves (Antrim House Books, 2015) and Climbing to the Moon: Poems Inspired by the Art of Georgia O’Keeffe (Finishing Line Press, 2009). Her plays, In Hiding and The Test, were produced at the Drama Studio in Springfield. She also maintains an occasional blog—Musing Over My Oatmeal—where she ponders diverse topics.