In the red, white and blue of the dirty thirties

“America First” dragoons matched the stink blowing

in from across the Atlantic. Beer- drinking brownshirts

reeking of knockwurst tyrannized the medieval cobblestone

streets of Munich during the Night of the Long Knives.

In the radiant sunlight of Coney Island, a patchwork

quilt of bathers reclined marinating in the sun.

As Betty Grable belted “Put your arms around me

honey, hold me tight,” I sat wiping sand off my

hard boiled egg, a precursor of sinister Sirocco-

driven sandstorms on the way to Tobruk.

Father fussed with the shutter of his Kodak

Folding Hawk-Eye camera like a peering

bombardier would do in fire-bombing Dresden.

I gorged on Nathan’s hot dogs and knishes

and had my fill of spun cotton candy that stuck

to my face. I savored tutti-fruitti ice cream,

vapors of dry ice rising from the vendor’s

portable ice box. I failed to see the similarity

to clouds of Zyclon-B that would soon

be seeping into sealed chambers.

Crashing in to each other in dodgem’-bumper cars

and swirling upside down in the loop-o-plane

we were born too early to imagine piloting Spitfires

in dogfights against Messerschmits.

We had no idea the pee-in-your-pants screams

of Cyclone riders going down terrifying steep drops

would be echoed by the howls of wraiths in barbed

wire enclosures.

A camp inmate would later recall a picture postcard

sent by a cousin in Bensonhurst showing white-washed

fences at Steeplechase and Luna Park describing a day

at the Fun Pavilion which was just that: fun.

As troopships left for Europe in the crepuscular light of dawn

the parachute Jump could still be seen by freshly minted

soldiers who reminisced about summer days at Coney.

Milton P. Ehrlich