My grandfather was grievously wounded,
World War I.

Perhaps, because I never met him,
it took me years
to get the story straight.

Who did he fight for?
Was Sweden even in the war?
Or was it Germany, where he’d studied
as a young man?
(This thought I always tried
to banish–but how could it be for the States, I’d wonder,
when he could only just have come–)

But war is its own country,
and all I really understood
was that he’d marched so deeply into it
that he was reported killed in action,
and his name engraved,
while he was nursed unknown,
on a monument to
the fallen.

For years, I imagined
that monument to be
in Stockholm or thereabouts–even connecting the mistake
with his emigration–
My idea: that the strange reception he’d received
on returning to the place
where he’d been given up for dead
had caused him to leave
for good.

But the truth is:
Sweden was neutral in the war,
he fought for the U.S.,
the monument sits
in a leafy park in Minnesota.

After learning all of that, I imagined him visiting the park
of a Sunday,
a sly grin on his face (akin to the laugh
of someone who looks up, bruised but intact, after
a prat fall)
as he stood in the shade of tree and column
tracing his name and the date
of his supposed demise.

I don’t know why I imagined the grin.
Maybe because he was known
for a twinkling sense of humor,
or maybe because when certain family members (my brother)
told the story, they were usually trying
to prove something–God’s grace–
and their voices and eyebrows
rose with the animation of someone convinced
that, finally, they had me,
their proof irrefutable.

But I don’t believe my grandfather was particularly religious,
and God and World War I
are pretty hard to link.  In fact, all I can think
is that I’ve got the story wrong again, that in real life,
my grandfather could never
have stood there and grinned.

For surely. there are other names
carved in that stone–
the names of men whose mistake
was being ordered
into fire, being entrenched
with disease–  their error
turning 18 before the 1900’s did.

After his real death, my grandfather came back
to Minnesota one more time–
so, my dad believed.
To console him, he said.
Don’t be sad, he told my father
on that ghost visit, don’t
be afraid.

In the parks in Minnesota, leaves twinkle
when they capture sun, so glad of it.




This is really a story and not a poem.  I should probably break up the lines into prose.  And it is way too long.  And late for the prompt that inspired it–a prompt on family history from Grace on dVerse Poets Pub.   I am also linking this to the open link day of with real toads hosted by Kerry O’Connor.  

Thanks for taking the time to read.

PS – the pic is a gold finch or oriole crossing the road.  (I don’t know what made them to do it.)  All rights reserved. 



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33 Comments on “Lore”

  1. I was instantly hooked. The journey through this tale is intriguing. Beautifully narrated. 🙂

  2. brian miller Says:

    wow. quite moving..what mixed emotions…to be considered dead and memorialized only to be found alive….given another chance…esp when so many buddies lost their lives…he does leave with wisdom…not being afraid of those emotions….nicely played k…

  3. claudia Says:

    interesting how we bring our own images into the stories we hear – how we fill in the gaps and how it can take forever to understand what really happened…a moving write k.

  4. Grace Says:

    Thanks for sharing this K ~ I enjoyed the details, your musings of what could have been, what it really is or maybe your poetic words of your grandfather ~ I think the effects of war has deeply changed the course of history for most family ~ Mine did in both WW 1 & 2 ~

    Wishing you happy weekend ~

  5. Steve King Says:

    This is very effective the way it is. Making it verse allows each line, each beat of meaning to have it’s rightful moment. You transform a fascinating bit of “lore” into a graceful and artful poem.
    Steve K.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you, Steve. Hope all is well. K.


    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ps I just reread in light if your comment and think/hope you are right. It would also possibly be stilted as prose at this point as I tried to stick in certain internal rhymes etc.


      • Steve King Says:

        This is “plain speaking” of the very best kind. So translucent, and it gives you plenty of space to develop your idea and to describe fully this marvelous bit of family history and legend. I find it hard sometimes to define a firm line between poetry and prose, but I don’t find that difficulty here. For me, there’s a great lesson in how you’ve approached this: sometimes we should resist the temptation of overt complexity, metaphors and figures of speech. Sometimes a good idea, clearly and honestly portrayed, will be enough. Like here. Just an opinion. Have a great weekend!

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks so much, Steve, for your kind comments. K.


  6. hedgewitch Says:

    Yes, more of a story, but it has plenty of poetry in it, as all your writing does, and works well that way. My own grandfather, come here from Sweden at the age of eight, was one year shy of being able to enlist before the Great War ended–a thing he regretted very much at the time, but learned to be grateful for later; though he had the battles of the Great Depression to fight instead, I don’t think they were quite as deadly for a strong young man who could work, as for a soldier in those trenches. You paint your (oral-traditional)portrait of your grandfather with a light, sure touch, even while conceding that it’s impossible to know someone completely from stories, only to know enough to repeat what made the stories meaningful. I especially love the glowing ending.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. k.

      On Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


    • ManicDdaily Says:

      PS – the Depression horrible, but hard to imagine anything much worse than WWI, and the Spanish Flu etc, except maybe WWII.

      But for soldiers, WWI seems especially heart-breaking–just such a crazy slaughter, so thoughtless and with such far-reaching consequences. k.

      On Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  7. It was a very odd experience. Odd in the sense that I felt as if I were living a life that was not mine and yet in so many ways it could have been mine, save time and place. I could have been drafted to go to Angola during the war. There were Cuban troops there for many years and we lost close to 20000 troops. I guess my anti-war feelings were born around those years, my adolescent years. Your poem/story brought many of these memories back. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Oh–that seemed a terrible conflict. I don’t know much about it, honestly, but so terribly bloody. Such a sad situation. Thanks. k.

      On Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  8. journalread Says:

    A wonderful narrative poem, k. I like it very much and the title is perfect. What a story 🙂

  9. Call it story or poem (why not narrative poem?), but it’s not too long at all. I found it captivating, especially the evolution of your rumination on the grin and how it (yes, poetically!) becomes a golden light. After reading it the photo, which had looked so mysterious, seems a beautiful fit.

  10. I love to read poems or stories which trace a half remembered path, such as this one.

    I thought the stanza which begins with this line, is particularly splendid in capturing your theme:

    But war is its own country… And this single line is extraordinary.

    I feel enriched for having read this piece.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you so much, Laurie, for your kindness. (That is also my favorite line, so glad that you liked it.) K.

      On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  11. I am so glad you wrote this poem and that I got to read it. I dont think he would have smiled, either, given all the men who died. How amazing and miraculous that he returned after being thought dead. I love your closing lines so much, because after the tale of war and remembrance, it returns us to the present and to a place of comfort and hope. Just wonderfully done! I love his after-death visit to your father too. Wow.

  12. This is captivating. You told this story beautifully and heartwarmingly. So effective.

  13. Susan Says:

    “But war is its own country … ” !!!! a 6 word phrase that sums up all that those who go cannot bring back–and don’t want to, really. When I read your title, I thought it was a reference to the movie “Lore” which shows the effect of WWII on upper-class German refuges. As I read, the lore/oral history gradually accrued to WWI (first line, but …), and made it all feel cinematic to me. Filmed replays with a narrative voice over would be perfect.

  14. Karin, of course this connects so much with me.. living in Sweden we have of course grown up without that feeling of people dying in war.. the thoughts that Swede’s have fought for other nations is often forgotten.. and yes I think there have been Swedes fighting on all sides of the wars in recent times.. but they are not part of our history any longer.. and there are no monuments to be found…

  15. lynndiane Says:

    This is an intriguing story, K, and pulled me in with interest… a poem full of history and mystery!

  16. Ella Says:

    I also felt the connection of then and now. How we feel differently as we age and see with different eyes~ It was intriguing and so well done~ It would make a great short story! I love history and you added the magic!

  17. Kay Davies Says:

    Karin, please don’t turn this into prose. It is wonderful to read it in this format. So many of us have stories of fathers, uncles, and grandfathers in wars, but what we hear is seldom the full story. It is impossible, I am sure, for returning servicemen and women to tell civilians the full story.
    Thanks for this intriguing tale. It is perfect as it is.

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