Your great-grandfather wasn’t part of the resistance.
He served the war years on the wrong side.
The best you can hope for is that he despised himself.
Otherwise, you’re descended from a proud goose-step,
a committed jackboot.
You do the best you can in life.
You wonder if he did the same.
Maybe there was a hint of sarcasm
in those salutes to his superiors.
Or he couldn’t wait to tear off that uniform
when he was somewhere alone.
You’ve always felt ordinary,
You got that from your old man.
Work hard, get by. If you’re a hero,
you’re the kind who’ll give a dollar to a homeless man.
Could you really fight back against a power that controlled you?
Or would you merely fall into line?
At least, from all you’ve been able to discover,
he didn’t serve in the camps.
He was just a soldier trying to survive,
no different from the ones he was shooting at,
who were shooting at him.
But shame is running out of excuses. And though once you felt trapped by your ignorance, now there’s no escape from what you know.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.