Eighth Air Force
by Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
If, in an odd angle of the hutment,
A puppy laps the water from a can
Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving
Whistles O Paradiso! — shall I say that man
Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?
The other murderers troop in yawning;
Three of them play Pitch, one sleeps, and one
Lies counting missions, lies there sweating
Till even his heart beats: One; One: One.
O murderers! … Still, this is how it’s done:
This is a war . . . But since these play, before they die,
Like puppies with their puppy; since, a man,
I did as these have done, but did not die – –
I will content the people as I can
And give up these to them: Behold the man!
I have suffered, in a dream, because of him,
Many things; for this last saviour, man,
I have lied as I lie now. But what is lying?
Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can:
I find no fault in this just man.
Come To The Stone . . . .
by Randall Jarrell
The child saw the bombers skate like stones across the fields
As he trudged down the ways the summer strewed
With its reluctant foliage; how many giants
Rose and peered down and vanished, by the road
The ants had littered with their crumbs and dead.
“That man is white and red like my clown doll,”
He says to his mother, who has gone away.
“I didn’t cry, I didn’t cry.”
In the sky the planes are angry, like the wind.
The people are punishing the people – why?
He answers easily, his foolish eyes
Brightening at that long simile, the world;
The angels sway above his story like balloons.
A child makes everything (except his death) a child’s.
Come to the stone and tell me why I died.
One thought on “This Is How It’s Done”
I blogged recently about the scarcity of noted poems of direct WII front-line experience compared to WWI’s oft-anthologized war poets. Jarrell may be the most considerable exception.