Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In This War Dream by Stephen Herz
This is a poem by Stephen Herz, author of Marked: Poems of the Holocaust.
IN THIS WAR DREAM
Wars don't change except in name
The next one must go just the same
You squeeze the trigger and shout: I've got the wrong war,
the wrong war, the wrong war. Your words play through
your dream like a beat-up 78, stuck, with no one around
to push the needle. You look into the lieutenant's eyes
but he is your grandfather, young Lazarus of Oppenheim.
You see his long frock coat and the black-and-silver spiked
helmut of a German officer. You salute, take off his helmet
by its spike, tighten the strap, shoulder his Mauser rifle,
and set off for the trenches of Verdun and the Hindenburg
line. You squeeze the trigger and a frenchie is dead.
You squeeze the trigger and a yank is dead. You squeeze
the trigger and see your star in a field of white crosses.
You see your grandfather's black Iron Cross hanging
around your neck. You rise from your grave screaming:
This is the war to end all wars, the war to end all wars.
In your dream you must remember Pearl Harbor. You must
remember D day and VE day and VJ day and Churchill's
fingers forming a V for victory, rising high with pride.
In your dream you must remember the Alamo and Lexington
and Gettysburg and the Persian Gulf. In your dream
you must forget the Somme and Verdun and Nanking.
Forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden. Forget My Lai
and Nam. Forget Somalia. Forget Korea and Chosin. Forget
frozen bodies stacked in the trucks, tied to the fenders
like deer. Forget the tears frozen to your cheek. In your dream
you must put on your old dog tags (one-O-two-six-
three-eight-six J), trade in your old M-2 for an M-16,
put your purple heart on your chest and go back to Iraq. Stuck.
In the wrong war, the wrong war, the wrong war.
Stephen is the author of Marked: Poems of the Holocaust.
Writing the Holocaust recently conducted an interview with him which you can read by clicking here.