Many years after the war,
Many years after a supermarket is opened,
Many years after a boy wanders through a house,
The old woman leans into her chair and closes her eyes.
Her grandchildren gather around and listen,
And slowly, as though waking from a dream,
She begins to speak of days long ago.
It was a better time, she says,
A time when everyone stuck together.
(In those early days of the war
She’d seen her neighbors dragged into the street.
Her mother forced her back into the house,
Wouldn’t let her watch what happened next,
But she couldn’t stop her from hearing the muffled shots.)
Food was scarce but they scraped by,
Scrimping and saving whatever they could.
It wasn’t easy, and they were often hungry,
But they survived, and it made them stronger.
(Before her father went away to fight,
There were times he wouldn’t eat for days,
Leaving anything edible for his wife and children.
Smiling, he’d stare into the distance,
Just smiling and staring, smiling and staring.)
And the soldiers!
The soldiers were so strong and so brave,
And they looked so handsome,
Marching in formation in their sharp uniforms.
(The ones that returned came home in tatters,
The soldiers and their sharp uniforms,
Destroyed beyond all repair.
It was easier to remember the way they were,
Still new and not yet broken in.)
Yes, there were hard times.
But life is hard, and it made us stronger.
We all went through it together.
Times were hard, but we survived.
(By the time it was done, so many had died.
All across the world, so many lives abruptly ended.
At first they would be mourned individually,
But as the decades passed and the survivors did too,
They would only be remembered as a collective number, a theory.)
Once all was peaceful again,
It was an indescribable feeling.
We were so happy, so grateful,
Every passing day was a gift.
(For years she’d have recurring nightmares,
Shadowy figures alongside vivid replicas,
Causing her to wake up gasping for air.
Her daughter would crawl into bed and hold her,
Not understanding but wanting to help.)
The world’s changed so much since then.
Changed so much.
Things were different then.
Things were familiar then.
Things were better then.