Blaise Cendrars: The War in the Luxembourg

A poem a day
International WWI Poetry Month

The War in the Luxembourg

Blaise Cendrars (France, 1916)

‘One two, one two
And everything will go just right . . .’
They were singing
A wounded soldier kept time with his crutch
Beneath the bandage his eye
The smile of the Luxembourg
And the smoke from munitions factories
Above the golden foliage
Pale autumn summer's end
You can't forget anything
Only little children play war
The Somme, Verdun
My big brother's in the Dardanelles
It's so beautiful
A rifle           ME!
Cries melodious voices
Cries          ME!
The hands reach out
I look like my daddy
They have cannons too
A little girl pretends she's the bicycle messenger
A hobbyhorse wheels around
In the basin the flotillas crisscross
The Paris meridian is in the fountain's spray
They mount an attack on the guard who has the only real saber
And he dies
The sun hangs above the potted palms
A Military Medal
They applaud the zeppelin going by over near the Eiffel Tower
Then they raise the dead
Everyone wants to be dead
Or at least wounded         RED
Cut cut
Cut off the arm cut off the head    WHITE
They give everything
Red Cross         BLUE
The nurses are six years old
Their hearts are deeply moved
They take out their dolls' eyes to fix the blind
I can see! I can see!
The ones who were Turks are now stretcher-bearers
And the ones who were dead revive to take part in the marvelous operation
Now they're studying pictures in the newspaper
They remember what they've seen in the movies
It gets more serious
They yell and whack better than Punch and Judy
At the height of the fray
Get 'em while they're hot
Everyone flees toward the waffles
They're ready.            D
It's five o'clock.             R
The gates are closing.           E
Time to go home.           A
It's evening.             M
They wait for the zeppelin that doesn't come    E
Tired                R
Gazing at the rocket stars         S
While the maid pulls you by the hand
And the mommies stumble on the big shadow cars

Tomorrow or another day
There's a trench in the sandpile
There's a little woods in the sandpile
A house
The whole country         The Sea
And quite possibly the sea
The improvised artillery moves around the imaginary barbed wire
A kite quick as a fighter plane
The trees shrink and the flowers fall out and turn like parachutes
The three veins of the flag swell up at every blast of the wind howitzer
You won't be swept away, little ark of sand
Children more prodigal than the engineers
They laugh and play tank poison gas submarine-facing-New-York-that-
I'm Australian, you're black, he washes up to play the-life-of-the-
Russian helmet
1 chocolate Legion of Honor is worth 3 uniform buttons
There's the general going by
A little girl says:
I love my new American mommy very much
And a little boy: Not Jules Verne, but buy me another nice Sunday