Long gone now into peaceful death
they both survived the horrors
of the wars,
but at what cost:
Cruel black holes torn
in their lives
beyond words and understanding.
Their tongues frozen
when asked about the war
and the other war,
the never-ending wars.
I know from his medals
that uncle, or ‘Nunc’
as he liked to be called,
fought in Europe and Africa
and the Dunkirk landings.
Of my grandfather nothing remains
but his cremated silence.
Two lives fragmented
in stinking mud, nightmares and hate.
Two lives who sacrificed
many seasons of laughter,
sunlit meadows, family picnics,
planting gardens, raking leaves
and reading by winter fires.
Instead they fought in hells
I cannot imagine,
watching friends ripped apart
by jagged metal,
drowning in poison gas
or burned alive in oily seas.
They crouched in fetid rat holes
while the sky concussed and screamed.
Shivering with cold and wet and fear
they dreamed of home,
warm clean beds,
kettles whistling on stoves,
hot baths, purring cats,
the embrace and love of wives,
friends and sweethearts,
and peace, blessed peace.
Protected by tenuous good fortune we believe
we are at peace, but the wars continue
and we are not immune from the violence
and torture in our world.
We are never safe from the grinning generals
and their demonic dreams of power.
/Poem by clinock/
The Survivors by Kathe Kollwitz – lithograph. 1923.
Poem by Ts’ao Sung (ca. 830-910)
The hills and rivers of the lowland country
You have made your battle ground.
How do you suppose the people who live there
Will procure firewood and hay?
Do not let me hear you talking together
About titles and promotions;
For a single general’s reputation
Is made out of ten thousand corpses.
No More War by Kathe Kollwitz – lithograph, 1924.