My Mother’s War Story

by Ernie Brill

You young have no idea what it was like.
We lived for letters, for the slightest word.
I remember one night––I’ll never forget it!
It was rough times, early in the 40s,
We heard about your father on the radio,
His name was in the news, an article
The storming of Kasserine Pass in Africa.
An article by a one Glen Fadden
Who turned out to be an A-one phony
Describing a raging battle in Tunisia
Fighting Rommel, and that Rommel was tough.
They said your dad stormed the pass with a machine gun!
Such nonsense: he barely knew how to shoot!
But there we were: cold January, rationed heat,
And I didn’t know where he was or how he was,
Or if he was dead or alive, or what!
I didn’t know what would happen to him
Or all of us I was always worrying
If we could get to Europe soon enough
To save those in the concentration camps.
That evening I heard on the radio
The Germans had retaken Kasserine Pass.
It grew colder. I was miserable.
I wrapped the one blanket I had tighter
And tighter, like when I was a little girl
I won’t forget that night as long as I live.


Ernie Brill was born in Brooklyn and educated at San Francisco State University with an MA in English on Chester Himes. He is the author of the out-of-print I Looked Over Jordan and Other Stories about race and class in public hospitals. He has published short stories and poems widely in the U.S. and Canada. Some of his favorite writers include Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Mahmoud Darwish, Kim Hyesoon, and Damon Runyon.