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Poetic License: Where were you on May 8, 1945?

By Staff | May 20, 2015

(Featured on NPR Latino USA)

Playing hooky at the New Amsterdam

movie theatre on 42nd Street

and coming out after sitting through

“Behind the Rising Sun”

and “Commandos Strike At Dawn,”

blinded for about ten seconds by sunlight

then saw that Times Square

was filling up quickly with people,

lots of them women and servicemen

and the newsstand guy shouting,

“Hitler Caput, Germans Quit!

Read all about it!” —

the cops directing cars

away from Times Square

and all the people into it,

the women grabbing

every soldier and sailor

and kissing and even French kissing

the living daylights out of them,

the men looking for women

to kiss and finding them

and before I knew it,

the women kissing me,

one after the other,

I had never kissed strange women

before, grownup or young,

I became excited but you really

couldn’t do anything because

it was too crowded

with more and more people

shoving into the square,

holding their fingers high

in V for Victory signs —

by the Red Cross War Fund booth

in the middle of the square,

the loudspeakers began playing

“There’ll Be A Hot Time

In The Town Of Berlin”

by Frank Sinatra,

a girl in a drum majorette outfit

was lifted on top of a Red Cross truck

and led the crowd around her in cheering:

“two down, one To-jo,

next stop —Tok-y-o!”

reminding us that only half the war

was over and reminding me

that it had already been over

for my brother

who was killed in ’44;

pushing my way out of the square,

I walked the two miles downtown

against a tide of wildly cheering girls

and beer-guzzling teen-age boys

rushing to the square

to get drunk for victory,

found no one at home, looked in the mirror,

saw my face and mouth covered

with the lipstick prints of the strangers

with whom I had shared

a moment of public intimacy,

wiped them all off

with my mother’s cold cream

just in time – my mother came in

and I could see she had been crying –

“Did you hear the news?” she asked me,

“Yes,” I answered,

” They let us out of school early.”