Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WAR, by WARREN ARIAIL



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WAR, by            
First Line: We faced each other, he and I
Last Line: I wear -- my souvenir of war.
Subject(s): World War I; First World War


We faced each other, he and I;
Each knew that one of us must die:
A German he, a robust man,
And I a proud American.

The noise of guns which seemed to sing
The song of hate was deafening;
And flames leaped madly here and there;
And death was feasting everywhere.

What right had I to kill? and he?
Was he in truth my enemy?
Had I harmed him, or he one time
Wronged me? -- O is not war a crime?

Two mortals standing face to face,
Two brothers though of different race
With one mad thought; to kill! to kill!
And that not really of their will.

He fired but missed me once, then twice;
I fired; he reeled and rolled his eyes
And fell; I heard a groan or two,
Then silence: he was dead I knew.

I stooped, my heart was moved, to gaze
Into my enemy's pale face:
A sort of mute apology
Demanded by my sympathy.

Ah, would you believe it, if I say
The man I killed that horrid day
Had been my friend, a true friend once
Before the holiday of guns?

Well, that is true: In Charleston then
A homeless youth 'mid prosperous men,
I sought for work; he took my hand
And balanced me, and bade me stand.

I wept, I wept.... What else could I?
We met; each knew that one must die:
It was our duty.... That's the star
I wear -- my souvenir of war.





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