ARMISTICE

A HyperStory


Official Radio from Paris - 6:01 A.M., Nov. 11, 1918. Marshal Foch to the Commander-in-Chief.

Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front beginning at 11 o'clock, November 11th, French time.

The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at that hour on that date until further orders.

[signed]
MARSHAL FOCH
5:45 A.M.


Tony Bono was sitting on a bag of sand in the trench
The Captain was reading a communication by radio
from a sheet of notepaper. After four years of waiting
There was nothing to say. This was the end.
And who knows what after this? Where to go next?


Suddenly he was home, marching formation in a rolling crowd on Fifth Avenue

Great crowds cheering, you couldn't move. Confetti floating in the air from open windows

Jubilation and cheers as the men were marching past

bugles, car horns, women screaming, everyone pressing forth

to see the valiant victors, the heroes of the day,

until night came leaving the crowd-stained avenue,

. . . . the public reminder that it was over, it had all come true.


He was now sitting at the kitchen table with the family
all asking him to tell stories about the war.
He said nothing. He recalled his early excitement
"we're going over, we're going over and we won't be back. . . . . . . . ."
What about the ones who won't be back, in clover clad?
Just dogtag and a watch coming home in a packet?
It is enough to be home sitting on the kitchen chair and say nothing.
Nothing now, it would all come around at another time
, it would all come back later.



Luisa, you know
my grandson,
that son of yours,
is away somewhere,
not our Tony now

fork
dropped
carelessly
dinner
tasteless
untouched.
sorry, Ma,
can't
eat. . . .

You are right grandma,
it is still the war
that weary look.
Father asked him
go see someone.
"Dad, I see too much,
all the time. . . . .


He was walking Friday on Northern Boulevard,
a loaded Mack coal truck ran over a man in the street
crushing him almost in two. The people stood and stared
but he felt sick and his mind went back
to the private lying in the muddy trench
his chest cut away by machinegun fire
and someone said to get this wop out of here right away,
The Captain yelled the krauts are coming over the top this way.

The ambulance was there on the boulevard
took the body away, then a man with mop and pail
came to clean up the sticky asphalt tar.
Nobody stayed to ask who the man had been.
The priest got there too late and went away.

Seven years later. . . .

The postman insisted on a signature for the package from the VFW.
Crimson leatherette binding hiding grim pictures of the war
trucks, tanks, heavy artillery, Red Cross cars and men advancing on foot under fire,

the landscape carved out with trench lines everywhere

everyone rushing to kill someone but no show of blood or death.

This was the Veteran's Memoir Keepsake Book

in red leatherette binding, were you could see

from maps in the back exactly where you had been engaged,

Jolly le Pew, or maybe Wipers. . . or some place not on the map?

With shaking hand he turned the pages nights
and evenings under a lamp
following details of the of the Marines' advance in France.
His wife asked him what he was studying, so intense
his reading habit seemed, but when she saw
what it was about, she asked him to keep it hid
and never let their son see the "Great War" book.
But he would bring it when walking in the hills
of Central Park, where one mound recalled a scene:


It was a lovely day in the rolling French countryside.

Eight Marines were proceeding across a field

cautiously scouting every suspicious tree

camouflaged snipers everywhere you couldn't see.

Ahead a rising hill and near the top a trace of dirt

as if thrown up from some excavated hole.

CAUTION. Throw in from the side a hand grenade

. . . . and then another. At the rim a white flag appears,

"Kamerad, we come out, no more grenade, bitte....."

In perfect order a column of Germans were now coming forth


But when the men had cleared the edge of their machine-gun nest, the column split in two and in the middle a machine gun was being set up by well trained hands. Too late! Now it was all over, the grenades flew with intense fury, until a retreat to the nest was called. But there would be no mercy there.

When it was quiet and they knew it was done,

they looked over the edge at a wild disarray

of mangled bodies, limbs detached still holding arms

torn uniforms and twisted helmets of mangled steel,

the Captain lying as if ordering, his baton still in his hand.

He had to ask himself if in his well trained altar-boy heart, there were a shred of sadness or a tinge of some regret. But what he remembered first and all too well was the great jubilation that gripped them then, a wild frenzy of excitement and pure joy at victory. And when they had followed the road to a French HQ and told them what they had done, there were warm clasps and bottles of wine brought forth and an all night celebration about how it felt to win the War.

Sadness and regret were now for him the late residue

of that lovely countryside encounter long age.

And when that evening he touched the dry commendation with the words

of General Pershing noting him for bravery under attack,

he could not help but think of our men long dead,

even of German husbands and boyfriends not going home.


_____________



Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile.
While you've a lucifer to light your fag,
Smile boys, that's the style.
What's the use of worrying,
It never was worthwhile. So:
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile. . . . . . smile.
And smile, smile. . . . . . smile.
And smile, smile. . . . . . smile.



William Harris
Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris