Thunder on a Cloudless Berlin Day
Papa gives me the capsule,
white and smooth, so like a candy.
He had it in a brass tube,
so like a bullet.
Mama is crying, her face in the handkerchief
Kurt and I gave her on her birthday.
It has violets and lambs on it.
I am her violet; baby Kurt is her lamb.
Papa goes and lifts Kurt from his playpen.
A soft kiss on my brother’s blonde head,
then he sits Kurt on Mama’s lap.
She looks up shaking her head, her eyes so wet.
Papa whispers to Mama, stroking her cheek,
Shhh, now. It’s the only way.
She won’t stop crying,
won’t stop shaking.
He stands suddenly straight, as if to hit her.
Magda, look at our Elke. Look how brave! She doesn’t cry.
She knows this is what our Führur wants.
Mama sucks a deep breath in and holds it.
Papa comes back to sit next to me, straightening his uniform jacket.
His medals are all polished, just as his boots and belt are.
So handsome, my oberstabsartz father!
He now strokes my cheek and smiles so brightly.
You’re a brave girl, my good girl, Elke.
I wanted to grow up and become his nurse.
I did well in school, but it has been closed for days –
Papa says the Russians and Americans are getting close now.
Now, my officer father says, ordering his troops.
He takes up his capsule, whiter than his teeth.
Puts it firm into his mouth, but does not bite down,
and talks like the circus ventriloquist.
Magda, now, Papa rumbles.
Mother groans as she takes her capsules from the handkerchief
and breaks one into Kurt’s trusting pink lips.
He kicks his plump little legs, coughs.
She looks to Papa, then to me, then Mama shuts her eyes and bites her white, her white –
I can’t look at her as she starts to jerk, and oh, little Kurt…
I look up at Papa.
His head is back, his mouth is open.
His mouth is white and open and he has spit-up on his uniform.
My doctor-soldier father.
Sunlight through the drapes makes Papa’s medals gleam.
I hear thunder coming close now and the sunlight is so bright.
I look down at my hands in my lap
and see that I have crushed my white capsule.
© Michael Griffith
About the Author
Michael Griffith began writing poetry to help his mind and spirit become healthy as his body recovered from a life-changing injury. His works have recently appeared both online and in print in The Good Men Project, the Starving Poets Tour anthology book, Dual Coast Poetry, and Degenerate Literature.
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