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Saturday, April 06, 2013


by Michael Ratcliffe

“Hardly a week goes by in Germany without an unexploded bomb from World War II being found at a construction site or in another location.  [This past Wednesday, 3 April 2013, one such bomb was found in Berlin.] Authorities detonated a bomb in Munich on Tuesday night, August 28, 2012, after efforts to defuse it were unsuccessful. It wasn’t the only bomb scare in Europe that week.” --Der Spiegel On-line, August 28 and 29, 2012

A bomb, five hundred-fifty pounds
of rusted steel, corroded wires, decayed explosives,
found beneath Munich’s center
where it lay hidden since World War Two,
buried in the rubble left by other bombs,
covered as the city rebuilt and tried to forget war;
uncovered by workers sixty-seven years later.

In beer halls and cafés, homes and offices,
curiosity and questions:
When was the last bomb found?
How will it be disposed?
Should we be worried?
This relic of the past,
this failed deliverer of death,
becomes part of the city’s chatter,
along with the economy,
the Greek debt crisis,
and the unseasonably hot weather.

The experts, unable to defuse the bomb,
decide to detonate,
and make plans for a controlled explosion.

At the dinner table, a family talks
about other bombs, routinely disposed—
one defused just the week before in Nuremburg.
They pass the meat and then the bread
and talk about the planned explosion.
The children ask if they will see the blast,
but they are in the evacuation zone
and must leave in the morning—
father suggests a day in the Alps.

A mother leaves her downtown office
and makes her way home, her usual route closed.
It was her country that dropped the bomb.
This is all so strange and foreign—
just part of the European experience, she tells herself.
She assures her children there is no need to worry,
old bombs are found all the time.
Her young daughter listens, but has heard that bombs kill.
She tugs on her mother, and asks if they will be okay.

An old woman remembers bombs falling,
and all the friends and relatives lost to those that did not fail.
She knows bombs kill.
She draws the curtains across the windows,
goes to the basement and huddles in a corner,
where she thinks about her mother
and how they would hold each other tight
whenever the bombs fell,
and pray they would be alive the next day.

August 28, 2012:
A Sufi cleric killed in Dagestan;
four dead in a truck in Kandahar;
one dead, seven wounded in Fallujah;
twenty-seven killed in Damascus;
bank windows shattered in Athens;
a memorial service for Israelis killed in Sofia.
In Aleppo, men, women, and children huddle in fear
as their government continues to bomb the city,
sometimes striking as they stand in line for bread.
In Munich, experts covered the bomb with sand and straw.
The controlled explosion shattered windows,
sparked a few fires, which were quickly doused.
The next day, the city returns to its routine.
In the beer halls and cafés, homes and offices,
talk turns to the economy,
the end of August holidays,
and the much-needed rain
that turns the bomb’s crater
into just another muddy hole.

Michael Ratcliffe lives and writes in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington area.  His poems have appeared in Symmetry Pebbles, Loch Raven Review, Do Not Look at the Sun, Poetry Quarterly, The Copperfield Review, The Little Patuxent Review, and You Are Here: the Journal of Creative Geography.