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Silent Night on December 24th, 1914

German and British soldiers, in the thick

of the first war of the worlds

crawl out of their

blood drenched trenches,

rifles slung over sunken shoulders,

and shovels across the other,

meet halfway in the dead man’s land,

carry back and bury the remains of their friends,

then return to exchange prisoners and cigarettes,

lighting them for each other, like Advent candles.

 

They gaze at the stars, name them in their mother’s tongue,

fabricate stories of the girl they will finally

propose to once they return home.

 

They take turns singing carols

their mothers sang to cease their tears,

then as if there was a conductor

invisible except to these boys’ eyes,

they all stand up

in unison

like a church choir

and blast

 

  Silent Night,

  Holy Night

 


frightfully off tune

and boisterous — as if they can

stop the sun from returning

with its violent red

if they are loud enough

as drunks fervently do —

ein Deutch and English,

sound of their different worlds.

strident, strong, full of alcohol

and mirth and death and loss

crash like the flames of the raging bonfire

from where sparks rise defiantly towards

the graying sky as if to reach and tear down

heaven to earth, until they die forgotten.

 

When they part, they embrace as

if they’ve been friends for a life.

 

Tomorrow,

 

they will aim at each other,

the only way they know how

to make it back to their mothers.

 

but today,

 

  sleep in heavenly peace,

  sleep in heavenly peace.

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