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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 2, June 2014

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Chris Bays
Beavercreek, Ohio, USA


Sembach

Horse-drawn plows once plunged these fields, pulled up roots, clods tilled to soil for wheat, bread. It must have been hard to break this rolling land. Unyielding to soft hands, furrows had to be molded around rich brooks and streams.

Now tractors clank and whirr at dawn. In the distance a blur of vineyard greens, daub of Rhine-land forests. I glance from bike to half-gutted runway, offices and barracks, an island of concrete in the middle of fields. A fence separates me from this base. Here once sprawled the pride of the 17th Air Force, now an army installation. It is here my parents first met. The photograph I pocket shows mama sprite-like in floral dress next to papa, his face stern, blue uniform streamlined. He was the opposite of Opa, her father who marched to Russia and never came back. Whereas Opa was short, brown-haired, and artistic, papa was tall, black-haired, and rule bound. She said he made her feel safe—perhaps he reminded her of the soldier who had lifted her up, given her iron shots and food after the war. Her accent reminded papa of his southern drawl; as they swayed to waltzes, she whispered rhythm in his ear—memory of coalmining, huddled poverty ebbed and flowed away. He admired her capacity to smile while working hard, translating German dispatches into English. He felt he could begin anew here.

Where are those whispers when they first met? What led to yelling I remember when growing up? Yet here in this valley of fields, among these brooks and streams, calmness lingers. It is to this valley during the war that Oma, mama’s mother, once walked to ask for bread. A farmer who had little herself to spare handed her a slab.

soft sun . . .
a daisy
in a plowed field

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