air raid

when i was a child in old west germany 
we lived in an apartment building 
built before world war ii.

bent people, 
heavy with age and memory 
plowed the fields, 
plied their trades in the small town 
outside our tiny, 
u.s. air force compound.

in every stairwell 
of our building 
hung tattered, yellowing 
air raid instructions.

at first i wondered 
how long had it been since the last bombs fell.

evidence arose in my mind.

the Herd of kids I belonged to
always played on a huge pile of dirt covering a house 
behind our apartment building 
that had been damaged by a bomb.

we called it The Hill.

the house’s chimney still stuck out of the top 
right beneath a huge tree 
twenty-years tall.

thus i assumed 20 years.

so, i wondered why bomb instructions 
were still hanging inside our halls. but,
i memorized them
just in case.
there were pictures of the kind of sounds i could expect to hear 
depending on the proximity 
of enemy aircraft, 
the rise and fall of the warning tones 
to be graphed sonically upon 
a treacherous sky. time to run.
there were air raid shelters 
in our basement.
i memorized their location 
as well, 
the quickest ways to get there 
depending on where i was 
to begin with,

just in case.

i once asked my dad what we should do
if the air raid ever came.

he looked at me sideways, 
smoothing shock from his glance 
as he smoothed worry from my eight year-old forehead 
with a kind, knowing smile, 
then he said,

“darling, there have been no air raids 
for twenty years. there never will be again.”

i often wish
he had been right.

c. 2002 TDHawkes