Anthem

In history class, we were made to watch the videos:

Yellow stars, striped uniforms. Arbeit macht frei.

Dead bodies piled like so many ripped dolls.

Violins crying in the background as the narrator did not.

Nobody told me: See what your people did.

I heard it anyway.

My mother's mother was four years old

when her father was drafted into the Reichsarmee.

She hid her face in her mother's apron,

afraid of his shaved head and brown uniform.

They never saw him again.

My father's father was ten years old

when the Allies bombed Berlin,

his own street a mouthful of crooked black teeth.

He never went back again.

My parents grew up in a barbed-wire country

East of a Wall like an aching scar,

even their anthem broken to pieces.

Taught to tear down a waving flag

and to sing their broken songs with downcast eyes.

America, lift your hands and pledge allegiance,

but remember Hiroshima, Vietnam and Iraq.

America, go sing to your star-spangled banner,

but leave the last verse of my anthem to me.

You are not your ancestors.

Neither are we.