After the War

Helga Kidder

After the War

The woman who fled the communists
lived next door, knitted for money.
Once she ran out of green wool,
and I had to wear a cardigan
with half of the sleeves shades darker.

But in the abandoned house beside the church
lived a witch, mother and neighbors gossiped.
Behind the second-floor window,
glass grayed and smudged,
we imagined her hexing passersby.
At night we listened to the house
confessing her spells.

When my sister spilled oatmeal soup on my foot
and the nurse came to pop the blisters,
she cried into mother’s apron.
That was after Dieter Gertz,
standing on top of a wagon,
gunned my head with rocks
and for six weeks the bandage turned me
into a mummy.

On better days we climbed the saints
chiseled into the church walls,
saw the cobbler’s beard shake warnings
as we tried to blow out the eternal light
burning among the apostles
defending Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

When all church bells rang and shook
the dishes in the cupboard, we knew
a soul had been saved from the witch.
To celebrate we sprinkled sugar on wet bread,
crossed our foreheads with holy water.

What could we believe
when witches and saints lived next to each other?


Helga Kidder lives in the Tennessee hills with her husband where she writes poetry,
plays tennis, and bakes.  She is co-founder of the Chattanooga Writers Guild and leads one of their poetry groups.  Her poems have been published recently in Poetry Quarterly and American Diversity Report and will appear in Mizmor L’David anthology. She has four collections of poetry, Wild Plums, Luckier than the Stars, Blackberry Winter, and Loving the Dead which won the 2020 Blue Light Press Book Award.

Author’s Comments/Backstory: “This is a memory poem. As I was writing and the poem took form, I realized that the individual occurrences gave the background for the Zeitgeist (in Germany). It was a time of re-building but also a time of strengthening beliefs in the good still there.”

Editor’s Notes: Image credit: Red background with a haunted house for Halloween (kjpargeter /

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