Monthly Archives: November 2011

Another War Poem

by Laura Libricz

Thundering hooves speed away. Shouts fade.

Or is that the sound of roaring flames? 

The intense heat of the fire burns my cheek,

Nose stings from the smoke.  

Clothes cold and soaked, I open my eyes. 

I lie at the base of a tree in the mud;

Weak, can’t lift my heavy, humming head. 

Early August morning. The sun should be rising soon, 

But not through those billowing black fumes. 

I’ve taken a severe blow to the shoulder. 

He kneels next to me, his tired face partially lit by the burning barn.

The main house is on fire, too. 

He examines my wound. It’s not that bad, he tells me.

Help me, give me a drink.

Troops had rolled over the North Hill in the middle of the night. 

Mounted Croatian soldiers rode down into the hollow

Where the farm lays exposed and vulnerable.  

Many came. 

Crabatten, they call them, they wear red sashes.

Hard to judge their numbers by the pounding of drums,

Snorting, screeching horses. 

They fight for the Catholics, they say.

Ununited Germany a fine stage for battle.

Luther assured us that no Hell Fire awaits us

Because here it is, on Earth, stinging my nose.

No walls separate the farm from its attackers, like the big cities. 

Everything went so fast,

They settled on us, they were gone, they left nothing whole this time.

I squint at the heap of smashed furniture ablaze in the farmyard. 

 The riders flew through the paddocks, with torches,

And lit the buildings on fire. 

As if a rushing wind carried their campaign

And our animals away.

I ran behind a shed that wasn’t burning, a soldier came up behind me. 

Sliced me down with his sword. 

I crawled out of the way. 

I never thought it would come to this.

No, that’s not true—I knew it would come to this. 

I’m surprised we held out this long.

My daughter. A tear.

Help me, give me a drink.

He sniffs the bottle.

If the war doesn’t kill you, this stuff will.

He crouches like a cat poised to flee.

My daughter. Where is she? A tear.

Soldiers savor young girls.

They’ve unburdened us of our possessions,

Relieved the barren fields of trampled fruits,

Are saving us from our heathen ways.

We pay,

We are grateful,

And our wicked souls rejoice.

Hard Labor

Erlangen’s Frauenklinik


     Eighteen years ago today I was in a six-bed room in the Women’s Hospital in Erlangen, Germany after 36 hours of labor and the birth of my second child, a son. After being in labor for 24 hours with the birth of my first child, not even a year and a half before, everyone said that the second birth would be easier. But I hadn’t believed them and the panic set in ten weeks before the baby was due.
     In order to combat the panic, I went to birthing classes at the Women’s Hospital. We got to know the facilities there and meet the midwives. They would ease the anxiety. Giving birth in a well-known University Hospital, we would be in the best hands. The Women’s Hospital had a bad reputation back then because the house was, I think, built in the 1920’s. But medically we were surrounded by the best of the best and the Children’s Clinic was connected by a catacomb.
     After being in labor for 24 hours, I decided against my better judgment to go to the hospital. We got to the maternity ward and there was a big sign:  Delivery room is closed for renovations. Wonderful. They led me to a two-bed room and told me to make myself comfortable. I asked them if they could do this without me. I had other things to take care of. They said no, I had to stay there.
     “Can we get you anything to make you more comfortable?” the nurse asked.
     “A schnapps and a cigarette, please,” I said.
     “I’m sorry, no smoking.
     “How about morphine?”
     “Maybe an aspirin?”
     The night went on and on. Contractions every five minutes. With each contraction, the baby’s heart rate crashed to 75. There was something wrong. Shift change. New doctors. (In Germany you get whoever is on duty. The Gyns don’t do deliveries.)
     But there was an angel by my side. The Midwife’s School is also near the Erlangen Hospital and a new student had been observing the developments the whole time. I hadn’t noticed her before. It was time for her to go home. But this was her first live birth and she was going to stay and help me through this. You know, I don’t remember her name. But she sat by me and rubbed my back with lavender oil and talked to me. (Yes, my husband was there too, but after having his hand badly bitten during the first birth, he was keeping his distance.)
     The night went on and on and about 2 am they got tired of watching this. They put me on the drip that makes the body contract. This was comparable with opening up a black hole inside my body. I think I turned green, my head spun around and I believe to this day that I levitated.
     The little angel wasn’t going to let me miss the moment of truth. She had told me a few hours ago that many women were so involved in the birthing process, they didn’t see when the baby came out. After what seemed like one continuous, agonizing, half-hour contraction, she grabbed my head and said: 
     “Look! Here comes the baby!”
     And there he was. And there he went. He had been two weeks late, had a hard labor behind him and they just whisked him away. Not a word to me. I didn’t trust these men. I just said to my husband:
     “Follow that incubator!”
     Today, that little 2700 gram baby is a big, strappin’ guy. Happy 18th Birthday, Jan!

Top-Ten List of Lyrics

So, I said the lyrics are the mind of the song; maybe because I see, think and feel in words. I can choose a word to pinpoint an exact feeling. String them together, I create an idea. I can twist them and turn them like a melody. I entertain myself. Words just play on in my head like a radio. So it’s my chosen medium. Like a painter with colors. Like guitarists with whatever they do with that thing.
Poetry is personal and quiet. I don’t feel that poems necessarily need to be shared to retain their potency. But a song comes alive when people hear it. And it’s a twofold challenge—the lyrics can be powerful but the singer can either bring the message across or let if fall flat. A good example is the song Run written by Gary Lightbody and then done (in) by his band Snow Patrol. The same song sung by Leona Lewis brings me to tears.
My taste in music wanders from my favorite genres when I only think in terms of lyrics. I tend to get all mushy here. Sorry, folks. I used to love trippy-drippy lyrics (like Close to the Edge by Yes which I can still recite today. All 25 minutes of it) but I’ve become more of a realist in my old age. 
Here’s my Top-Ten List and the same guidelines apply here. They are in no particular order. There are plenty more but I still have 20,000 words to write this month.
a. Run—by Gary Lightbody (sung, please, by Leona Lewis)
b. Feel—Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers
c. Us—by Billy Pace sung by Celine Dion (I already said sorry)
d. Faceless Man—Creed, don’t know who wrote the lyrics
e. Alive—Pearl Jam
f. Southern Cross—Stephen Stills
g. Goodbye Philadelphia—Peter Cincotti
h. Cold—Annie Lenox
i. I am the Highway—Chris Cornell
j. Teardrop—Massive Attack
k. Lots and lots written by Bernie Taupin and performed by Elton John. There are too many favorites to whittle it down.
That’s eleven.

Love Locks

Walking through Bamberg on one fine autumn day, I saw signs over shops for Liebeschlösser. All different kinds of shops. I didn’t know what to think of this term until we crossed the Kettenbrücke and saw:
OH! Love Locks—hanging from the steel cables. I get it. Kay said she saw something like this in Paris, too. The custom of fixing a padlock to a bridge (or a lamppost, like in Rome or a tree, like in Moscow) by two lovers and then ceremoniously throwing the key over the side can be traced back to that lamppost in Rome. Graduating students from Florence would fix the lock from their locker to a lamppost on the Milvian Bridge, a bridge over the river Tiber. The custom was made even more popular by lovers in the book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia.
The number of Love Locks on the Bamberger Kettenbrücke today is 566. They even have their own website!  http://www.liebesschlö  And, of course, the city is threatening to cut them all off. It seems the galvanized nickel from the locks chemically reacts with the steel cables of the bridge and speeds-up the rusting process. What a shame. Experts say that at 25€ the meter, the city could easily replace the steel cables every 15 years, or not?

“Tastes Like Chicken!”

After WW II, lots of Germany families bred rabbits for meat. The rabbit’s pen was small and could be kept on the balcony of an apartment, in the cellar or outside in the garden. Rabbits could withstand cold temperatures and could be kept outside all winter, as long as they were dry and not standing in a draft.
When asked today, some folks from this post-war generation won’t eat rabbit meat anymore. They’ll say they ate so much rabbit as kids, they couldn’t bear another bite. But some still keep rabbits because they are easy to raise. Instead of throwing away vegetable peelings, the rabbits will eat them. They eat grass (not from the lawn mower, though!), hay, cooked potatoes, apple and potato peels. And rabbits born in the spring are ready to be prepared in the fall.
In Pennsylvania, we seemed to have grown up on a dish called Chicken Paprikash. It is a stew made by sautéing onions, adding powdered paprika and letting it lightly brown, maybe a bit of stalk celery, too. After adding chicken broth to make the soup, the meat is added. I make it in a pressure cooker, so I bring the pressure up for about a half an hour, then take off the pressure, open the pot and add potatoes. Then the soup is thickened with flour and milk. I add a nice dollop of sour cream and serve with a fat piece of buttered bread.
I make this dish with rabbit, because rabbit has a delicate, light flavor and is easily overpowered by other recipes. Rabbit tastes like chicken. Also, this dish is very handy for hiding all sorts of light meats of unidentifiable origin. As a child, we seemed to eat a lot of Paprikash during small game hunting season. It all tasted like chicken, right?