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The hostel women came one summer evening

after tea. The noise brought Judith and me

from hiding-from-the-Germans, our game

in the bushy borders of the gardens

in our block of flats off Finchley Road.

A crowd of women, with some small children –

a few men were outside on the pavement –

were at the back of the building where we were

forbidden to go and the bins were kept.

A row of aspen saplings, planted

alongside the back fence, was shimmering.

The women were shouting and banging bin lids.

“House us now! House us now! House us now!”

“Look at this!” yelled one of the women.

“This is how the rich live!” She was holding high

a leatherette hand bag. It was my auntie’s.

I felt guilty. She had explained to Nanny,

“It’s worn. The war’s over, mama!”

We heard a police siren drawing near.

One of the men whistled. The bag was flung

into the branches of the nearest tree.


Back in the flat, high above everything,

I heard Nanny and Grandpa talking.

The Germans had bombed where the families lived.

I thought of me and Judith hiding,

and wondered if I dared tell about

the bag hung in a tree.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Sarah Selzer
    May 8, 2020

    Very evocative and a snapshot into my family history – incredibly not a story I remember you telling! So looking forward to hearing more about it. Gives an interesting slant to the tales of lockdown bunting today on VE Day! Xx

  • Jane Barth
    May 9, 2020

    Thank you, David. The shouting of the women and the inappropriateness of the handbag hanging in the tree would be disturbing to the child. Reading it as an adult and remembering the war, one thinks of bodies hanging in trees: two moods captured in one description.

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