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
like a church choir
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.
they will aim at each other,
the only way they know how
to make it back to their mothers.
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.