‘The Cold War’ by Eric Linder

Eric Linder’s new book is The Blue in the Eye of the Girl at La Jolla: New & Selected Poems. His work has appeared in Harvard Magazine, The Quarterly, and The Annual of Light Verse and Funny Poems. He has owned Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, Mass., on Cape Cod since 1980. Before that he owned The Chelmsford Bookstore in Chelmsford Center, a yellow building at what used to be called “chicken corner” for the risky traffic pattern. This poem is from his new collection of poetry, which is available at loompress.com

The Cold War

by Eric Linder


Heidenreich had a way

with words. He never merely

pronounced. He enunciated.

You noticed this right off.

Good morning class. My name

is Mr. Heidenreich. The name

hung. Blood left his cheeks.

The hairless Neanderthal head

corroborated his declaration.

You studied the bite, counted

the gold fillings. You’d skipped

college and gone to dental school.


Heidenreich had favorite words,

culled undoubtedly from

years of punctilious study.

A plethora of events, never

a multitude, seldom a profusion.

Emily sat opposite me on the

semi-circle. We were both

front row. Heidenreich commanded

the open end, each class a

summit conference. Emily’s

skirts were brown or gray

or navy blue, her blouses neat,

buttoned at the neck.  She sat

straight, prim, her legs painfully

(for me) together, feet flat on

the floor, heel and toe touching,

penny loafers still in the shop window.


These were the cold war

years.  Eisenhower, Nixon,

Khrushchev.  Heidenreich

championed Brinkmanship

and John Foster Dulles.

I studied Emily’s legs. On

a beaver scale of one to ten,

she scored a definite zero.

Paula Bella Bella was a

different story.  A giggly

girl, attractive even with

braces and too much makeup,

Paula was . . . well, precocious

is a nice word. One afternoon

on the bus home from school

Paula confided to me that

she had legs like peanut

butter. She demonstrated

what she called a smooth

spread to prove it.


Nights, disregarding the

ubiquitous bomb, I dreamed

of naughty Paulas and proper

Emilies trapped in bomb shelters

with me and the bare necessities.

One Response to ‘The Cold War’ by Eric Linder

  1. David Daniel says:

    I love the charm of this, the easy way it unrolls itself, threat of the Big Bomb be damned.