In Memoriam Erich Maria Remarque 1898-1970

John Collard

You didn’t recover from barbed snares and mustard gas
till 1929, a decade after “the war to end all wars.”
By then Berlin cabarets
were rehearsing “The Jewish Menace.”

Your comrades were pale school boys
led astray by teachers
mouthing patriotic prose
sending you to the draft of 1916.

Before then days had been carnivals,
blue skies, transparent butterflies
shimmering meadows studded with fiery poppies,
the ecstasy of warm summer winds.

Kemmerich was the first to fall,
wax hands protruding from trench dirt,
hair cork-screwed on shrinking skull.
Muller inherited his boots!

You writhed before martyred horses
dragging entrails in anguished circles,
mouths steaming blood.
Dettering ended their agonies with a shotgun.

The earth convulsed in graveyards;
dead fingers pinioned your shoulders,
a coffin imprisoned you
to an audience of gaping masks.

Survivors yearned for peace,
lines of poplars, truant streams,
Beethoven spilling from apartments
apparitions from the past.

Fantasies were roused by a circus poster,
a girl in a light summer dress,
red leather belt,
white buckled shoes,
sensuous silk stockings.
She inhales mist besides a smiling lake,
red lips moistened
by a glass of autumn wine.

You were the sole survivor of Second Company
the others perished under green skies,
a month before the Armistice.
It became “All Quiet On The Western Front.”