War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

letters (from May Day)


grandma called, “what’s wrong?” I ask. her eighty-four year voice wobbley, not sing song, “it hasn’t been this sad since the war.”

“got a letter from Norma, one of the last,” grandma says, “pals dropping like flies. how dare Betty die.” grandma’s best friend Elizabeth Georgina—sixty-eight years of telephone, men, babies, their figures, laughs, tears, gossiping about Norma—gone.”

“Norma sent a letter I wrote to David. her brother, the one who died in ‘44, flying over the Yorkshire Moors. bomber pilot buried near York. bodies weren’t brought back those days. too many I suppose.”

“David. glamourous. 21 year old flyer. handsome in RCAF blue. I remember the day he received his commission. how proud we all were too…

my letter, ‘David, work at the CN as telegraph girl is so much fun. good money, nice clothes, something to help mother out with, (lots of men too Susan, officers’ élan, walk, talk, the way they carried themselves, though I didn’t tell David of course)…and David, we’ve a new puppy, Sugar Baby. and David, when you come home next. and David did I tell you…’

17 year old me. we were older in those days”
old lady breathes on portable 2008 phone.

“all his things shipped to next-of-kin. five decades of sealed grief opened by Norma in 1997 when their mom died. now Norma’s clearing out. getting ready for her own exit. sent me the letter.

and sometimes Sue, it’s too much. losing friends. remembering what’s past. and now I read papers, hear news. more sons. daughters lost. not Germany, not Italy, not France. Afghanistan. where the hell is that? and who is this M. Sue, who is this M.?” grandma rings off.

and M., I need to tell you. over sixty years, the lost aren’t forgotten. ache stretches, thins, fattens again. in the ones left behind—survivor lives stretched like grape vines on long wooden fences. clusters of good years. clusters of bad.

and questions: what would he have been as an old man. would I have married him. what would our children look like. would I still love him.

had he come home. in RCAF blue. or desert tans?

and M., I need to see. you

your tans dusted, crystalled with desert, with sweat.. can’t wait sixty years.
a sealed letter. a bundle of telegrams,

emails, saved txts…
for the answer,

or the regrets.


1 Comment (Closed)


A poignant reminder that war has many faces and, like Medusa, we don’t like to hold any of them up to a mirror! Memories, unlike people, never die but to some they are a living death. Others learn to accept and move on, but never forget. Mankind’s greatest enemy is indeed….mankind. Love the crisp description, S – very poetic! Very appropriate to juxtapose the anticipation with the aftermath- especially at this time of remembrance.

Nov 10 2008 · 13:59

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled letters (from May Day). It was posted here on November 09, 2008.


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