My Grandfather’s War Papers

Erica Goss

It’s all I have of you:
five sheets of paper,

ten fingerprints,
one signature swearing

that to the best of your
knowledge and belief,

the particulars given are true.
What would I say to you,

who corralled a bunch
of drunken Spaniards

on the ice outside Leningrad,
who knew the bitter relief

of surrender on a hot
August day in Paris?

In a photograph
your daughters squint

at the camera, smiles
stretched and eyes hollow.

I would tell you:
Opi, I understand.

Just like you
I would have

done anything
to save them.


Erica Goss served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Convergence, Spillway, Cider Press Review, Eclectica, The Tishman Review, Tinderbox, The Red Wheelbarrow, and Main Street Rag, among others. She is editor of Sticks & Stones, a bi-monthly poetry newsletter. Please visit her at Of these two poems, Goss writes, “I address the border guard who carried the dead boy so awkwardly and carefully, knowing the world was watching—and in “My Grandfather’s War Papers” I trace my grandfather’s journey from Leningrad to Paris, where he surrendered in 1945 to the Americans.”