Elegy for Paul Baumer

June 13, 2011
Just as trees lost their vitality,
So too did Paul face his fatality.
The year was 1918, October was the date.
And when they found him, turned him over
He seemed contented with his fate.

How did this happen, why so soon?
He was swept away in this monsoon,
This monsoon that we call war,
This monsoon we so abhor.

We send these so-called “Iron Youth,”
These small, young boys, still so uncouth,
To fight some unknown opposition,
Though they do so with no ambition.

Taught to steal, taught to fight
In peacetime, we would set them right.
But this is war, morals matter least
And so these boys become human beasts.

Had he not gotten sent away
Paul would have been contrasting.
He used to work on poems, and plays.
But in war, all that matters is lasting.

Survivors brought back many stories,
Stories of their tribulations.
And though with war, we think of glories
Clearly, it’s different from expectations.

In one such story, some geese are heard
“Aspiring for the frying pan.”
With a friend, Paul goes and steals the bird,
For roasting by the other man.

They’ve saved its feathers, they eat its meat
For soldiers, this is quite the treat.
And as they finish up their meal,
They feel more intimate than even lovers feel.

This theft, however, was quite carefree.
Much worse was the scream of a banshee
That signaled the approach of shells
And wailed, “Not much longer on this Earth you’ll dwell.”

Paul dealt with horrors beyond belief
And all the time, was filled with grief:
Grief for friends, grief for brothers,
Perhaps more grief than their own mothers.

But now he’s in a better place.
Instead of fighting, he’ll embrace
His fellow man, as he was meant to do.
No wonder his contentment, then,
To bid us all adieu.

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