November 9, 2018

The Great War


One thing after another led to another and then that resulted in neat little formations, dressed in their finest, the brave and the proud, marching and singing patriotic songs as their shiny black boots clopped down the street to the rhythmic pounding of the drums that shook the ground and the street and everybody standing by it, drums rum-tumming everywhere and songs were sung and confetti thrown...kisses and flowers from the young girls and women smiling and lining the curbs...how exciting!...the soldiers...they were well rehearsed for opening night or so they and their directors thought...the play put on for the benefit of kings and queens and kaisers and dukes and tsars...it's always the young who die for the old...the poor who die for the rich…once all the actors took their place on the stage of the European theatre...the curtain of reality was raised followed by a dreadful downpour of hot steel...whistle BOOM! whistle BOOM! whistle BOOM! BOOM! KA-BOOM!...mind numbing thunder that never seemed to end...they laid, prayed, slayed, and above all stayed...DON’T GIVE AN INCH!” they were told... “They shall not pass…”, trenches full of water and mud, mud, mud, and more mud...mud and blood...blood that ran cold, blood that wanted to run away...writers, artists, bakers, farmers...dead bodies and pieces of bodies lining the walls of the five or six foot deep hell they had dug for themselves...small parcels of land won then lost then won and lost once more, then a long stalemate...attacks, counter-attacks, counter-counter-attacks...over the top...letters sent back home saying all is well, often arriving after the sender had already been slaughtered...The Battle of the Somme, The Marne, The Battle of Chateau-Thierry, Verdun, and ten thousand others...commanding officers with whiskey breath and no imagination following the orders of Generals named Disregard, Confusion, Carelessness, Stupidity and Indifference...the whistle of death whispering in the soldiers ears trying to seduce them into a long goodnight, they looked up and saw horses in trees like some kind of surreal exhibit in an art gallery with no exit, just room after room of the same horror on display...over there, over there...many never made it back, about 10 million give or take a few, oh well, as Stalin said one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic...an entire generation nearly wiped out...masses of Johnnys who didn’t come marching home again...heroes perhaps but dead heroes nonetheless and if you’re dead it don’t matter that much what you were because you’re still dead...accolades don’t do you any good...the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year of 1918 couldn’t and didn’t come soon enough for so many innocents who caught one in the heart, or a piece of shrapnel to the head...others did come back but didn’t really come back...their minds were twisted like the barbed wire that spread out over no man’s land...their bodies looking like something out of a cubist painting by Picasso or Braque...what did you do in the war daddy?...and when all that insanity was over, the world shouted NEVER AGAIN! and tried to forget the whole bloody mess, but the second act would begin after a brief intermission.

World War I song Over There