In the still silent hour of night a sliver of crescent moon

shines rays through a silver cloud under a duvet

of shimmering stars.

Although it is mid-July, the utter stillness reminds me

of Christmas eve, 1953 when my Ack-Ack company

was corralled in an airplane hangar at the port of embarkation

at Camp Kilmer, awaiting orders to be shipped out;

usually to hurry up and wait, now waiting to find out

if we’d be landing on Inchon, Iceland or Bremerhaven.

Around midnight this regimental mass of men suddenly

began signing “Silent Night,” poignantly swaying,

bound together in spirit like a medieval Canterbury choral.

I was unfortunate to not be a man of faith, but I was so moved

by the mood of the men, a mix of loneliness

and vexatious dread, that I joined in full voice

fervently singing like I never had before.

As the only Jewish child in class I merely mouthed

Christmas carols each year in fear of being chased

after school as a Christ killing, kike, dirty Jew.

Not so gentle gentile classmates, Kabrisky, Schildkraut

and Marinelli once even tied me to a tree,

kneeing me, knuckling noogies and Indian burning my wrists.

We waited in fear of leaving for Korea since

truce talks at Panmunjom had not yet been signed.

We joked in the barracks about war movie scenarios,

like who got the ten grand insurance if you never came back

and what would you do if you stepped on a mine

with your legs flying up to the sky like twin zeppelins.

Our primary question was never resolved: basic training

had taught us to thrust and parry with M-1 steel bayonets,

But what would we do when faced with an enemy

we had to kill or be killed?

Sarge always advised we’d be the first to find out!

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie St. Leonia, N.J.07605