Moments in Time | Teen Ink

Moments in Time

March 17, 2011
By Dreaming_Out_Loud PLATINUM, Holden, Massachusetts
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Dreaming_Out_Loud PLATINUM, Holden, Massachusetts
29 articles 14 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present."

Author's note: I was required to do a history project, 2-3 poems about something World War 1 related. I began to write and soon my 2-3 poems turned into pages and pages of poems. I couldn't be happier with the outcome though...

“No,” Momma said,
With a sad shake of her head.
“No seconds tonight, honey.”

I didn’t understand.
“Why Momma?
Why can't I have seconds?”

Momma looked at me,
Stroked my cheek,
Gently, like rain.

“I hope you never know.”
And then Momma, strong as stone,
Began to cry.

Tears came softly,
Like snowflakes.
Then gushed like a waterfall.

Poppa looked at me.
And shook his head,
Ever so slightly.

He took mamma’s hand
And led her away
To comfort her alone.

Disgusted, my siblings followed suit,
Retreating to their rooms
Leaving me in silence.

I stared at the table,
The dishes with forgotten food,
The abandoned chairs.

Why was everyone so different?
What had happened?
This was too much
For a soul eight years old.

I did not ask for seconds,
Kept my mouth closed,
Spoke only when spoken to,
Ate my dinner in silence.
I pondered mostly,
On what had changed our lives.
Marie and Karl now often complained.

After dinner,
Where my curiosity had blossomed
Eaten away at my insides,
I built up the courage,
To approach Poppa.

“Why did Momma cry last night?
Why can’t I have seconds?
Why do Marie and Karl complain?”
Poppa looked at me,
And for once I noticed the lines
That now engraved his face,
The bags that hung under his eyes.

“Leonard, we are in war.
Food is rationed.
Certain things are hard to come by.
Metal and other goods
Used by the military are scarce.
France must do all it can
To stop the Germans.”

“Poppa, what is war?” I asked.
He looked at me with his tired eyes
Took a deep breath
And answered my question.

“War is when brave people
Sacrifice their lives,
For a cause they find to be just and true.”

“But Poppa,” I questioned,
“Why do we fight the Germans?”

“Sometimes it is best,
To not know everything Leonard.”

Karl’s leaving.
He came home today
Sauntered in,
Looking older
And younger
At the same time
And then he said it.
The words hung
Suspended in midair
And then dropped
Explosive like a bomb.

Momma protested
Refused to accept
His words.
Tears streamed
Down her ashen white face,
Hands shaking
Body trembling.
And then Momma,
Who had always been
My brick wall
Into dust.

Poppa embraced her
Clung to her
Like she was his lifeline.
He looked at Karl
And nodded.
“If this is what you must do,
Then join the army.
I can’t bear to lose a son,
Nor can I bear to deny you
What you must do.”

Marie, white as a ghost,
Grabbed my hand
And meant to lead me away
To my room
To silence
To safety
But her body was shaking
On legs of straw.
So instead I,
A giant of eight years
Led the way.

Marie collapsed upon her bed
And sobbed into her pillow
Engulfed in a world
Of sadness and despair.
I leaned against the door
Ear pressed hard
Against the dark wood
Straining to hear
Words I knew
I would never forget.

Through the wood
I heard murmuring
And what seemed like days later
That I knew to be Karl’s
Clomp, clomp
The footsteps approached.
I stumbled away from the door
As it squeaked open.
Karl appeared in the doorway
And motioned for me to follow

Obedient like a puppy
I obeyed.

Back in our room
Karl and I sat
Upon his bed
And for a few moments
He gazed around the room
Lingering longingly
Here and there

“When I go” he began
“You will be the oldest son.
Momma and Poppa
Will rely on you.
I know you’re strong enough.”

“But Karl” I protested
“I don’t understand.
Why do you want to go?
Poppa said people fight
For a cause.”

“I’m sure you have seen the posters
That plaster our streets.
War isn’t pretty, I know
But in a way it’s glorious.
The posters reminded me
I am French through and through.
I love my country too much
Not to go.”

I nodded
Silent as a ghost.
And then crept into my bed
Weighed down by uncertainty.

Everywhere I went
I heard the whispers
Loud as drums
To me

The war would be over
By Christmas
Karl would come home

I loved the whispers
Lived for the whispers
Longed for the whispers
I heard

Secretly every time
I heard the whispers
I celebrated within

If everyone whispered
They must be true
How could they all be wrong?
I thought.

Who was an eight year old
To question their reasoning?
Instead I looked forward
To Christmas

Today, a nice surprise
Arrived upon our doorstep,
A letter from Karl.
Reassurance that he
Was at least alive.

Momma cried with joy
Insisted we feast
With the rations
We are given
For once
Poppa didn’t argue
And we were a happy family
Once again

Karl had made a friend
With a pilot
And fascinated me in his letter
With stories of aviation
Of wood and steel that flew
Of Morse code transmitters
And carrier pigeons
What a life to live!

Life at war seemed glamorous
I only wished I was older
They wouldn’t take an eight year old
Would they?

Marie is going to work
In a factory
Deep within the city
Momma is worried
But Poppa understands.

When she talked to me
In her room
About going to work
She sounded exactly
Like Karl.

Marie said her reason
Was a responsibility
To her country.
She could not proudly
Call herself French she said
Without aiding the war effort.

The factory makes ammunition
For the soldiers.
It’s what they use to kill
The Germans.

I’m starting to think
Maybe the war isn’t so great.
It has stolen my brother
And is after my sister.

My family is falling apart.

Tears all around
A letter from Karl
Showed me aviation
Is not the dream I had created.

Karl’s pilot friend
Is dead.
A pilot with more experience
Was scheduled
For the attack on the Germans
But a plane malfunction
Took his life too.

Karl tells us
That the planes are dangerous
And are even called
Flaming coffins
A phrase that sends
Resounding down my spine

Tonight before bed
I thanked God
That my brother’s not a pilot
That he doesn’t ride
In a flaming coffin

I also asked God
Why is there war?
I don’t understand
Why people fight.
To your country
Is not nearly enough
For me.

Weeks passed monotonously
No letter
No news
The waiting it seems
Is worse than the fighting

Finally another letter
Another sigh of relief
Another moment of gratitude

Karl is fighting in the trenches.
In the ditches of death.
Land mines and barbed wire
Lie in front of each
Just waiting for a victim

Some soldiers are bored
He says
And others are possessed
With terror
Life is hard and he fights daily
For survival

He changes his boots and socks constantly
To fight trench foot
And sees rats that feast upon
Of fallen comrades

He is never warm
Never dry
And never clean
Karl is thankful though
He has not been called upon yet
To attack the Germans
And receive his almost certain
Death sentence.

Momma read Karl’s letter
And fainted
Poppa and I carried her
To her room

I woke up to screaming
Covered in a cold sweat
And realized
The screaming was me

My nightmare was awful
I was in the trenches
With Karl
Fighting off mud and cold
Rats and disease
And death

And then I was in the factory
With Marie
Working day in
And day out
The same monotonous tasks
To make ammunition
For killing

Next I was Momma
Worried sick about her children
Losing the will
To live
I was the lifeline
I, Leonard, was her reason
To live

Poppa was my next stop
A troubled mind
A hurricane
Of thoughts and emotions
A puzzle
Without all the pieces

Surprisingly then I was a German soldier
Huddled close to death
In a trench
The same as Karl
Just worried about his family
Hoping and praying
For another day
Another chance to see them

Lastly I envisioned
Death and war
Hand and hand
Laughing and joking
About all the people
They had fooled
Enticed with the war
To befriend death
And all the people
They had set against
Each other
Ready to kill
Over petty human differences

After I awoke
My nightmare visions
Still swam
In front of my eyes

The war
A demon
In my life

Christmas came
And went
No Karl
And strained smiles
All around

A letter from Karl
Weeks later
Informed us about the soldiers
And how each
Wished most for their families
On Christmas day

He heard news though
Of British and German troops
Who spent Christmas together
In no man’s land
In between the trenches

They laughed and joked
Shared cigarettes
Took pictures
And had friendly matches
Of soccer

I wonder how these people
Can spend time
With their enemies
Learn they are human
Just like them
And still want to kill them

My nightmare visions
Of death and war
Seem hauntingly real

Karl says there is a new enemy
In a recent letter
He was in the trenches
When him
And his comrades
Were attacked
By gas.

It’s poisonous chlorine
That seeks out each soldier
Has no feelings
And feels no pain
To cause death.

Karl says he’s lucky
They were prepared
With gas masks
Some were not so lucky
Karl sadly states.

He witnessed
His new brothers
Die before his eyes
At the hands
Of a silent killer
Foaming at the mouths
As they joined death.

Tonight I won’t sleep
Too afraid
Of nightmares
My nightly companions
All too real.

Instead I lay awake
And wonder
How can Karl
Still have the will to live

Thoughts of war
Make me
An innocent child
Shiver in fright

Poppa came home today
With news.
The first good news in ages
It seems.

The United States
Has entered the war
On our side.

President Wilson
Asked congress for a declaration
Of war
After Germany sank
Four of their merchant ships

Wilson says they entered the war
To make the world safe
For democracy.

I don’t care about democracy.
I just want Karl home
Marie to stop working at the factory
Momma to stop worrying
And Poppa to be happy

I want my nightmares to go away
But I don’t think
They will end
With the war

The war is over!
Karl is coming home
Life will return to normal

When the war started
I was an innocent eight year old
And now I have grown
To an eleven year old
Far too mature for my age

Poppa says Russia
Had revolutions
And had left the war
But the United States
Had saved us
From defeat

With their support
We were able to destroy
The Germans
William II fled

November eleventh
A day I will never forget
Germany signed an armistice
An agreement
To stop the fighting
Poppa says

Although the war is over
My nightmares are not
Death did not lose
It claimed millions
Of lives
Millions of futures
Of souls
That never had the chance
To show the world
What they had to offer

Karl came home
With an injured arm
An arm that will never
Function properly
It’s hard to not stare
But I try my hardest

Poppa says our prime minister
Georges Clemenceau
And Britain, Italy,
And the United States
Are working
On peace agreements

Clemenceau wants Germany to pay
But Wilson disagrees
Karl says after what he’s been through
Waiting to die everyday
Germany deserves to pay

Poppa says Germany was punished
In the Treaty of Versailles
Finally the world
Is okay

Peace reigns
And we can be happy
Once more

Although the war is over
Life is not normal
Everything has changed

Poppa’s face
Is still tired
Lines drawn with years
He never lived

Momma tries to hide
The fact she is unhappy
Karl is home
But his arm is useless
Marie is forever changed
As am I
How can a mother be happy
About that?

Karl often stares
Off into space
Reliving the horrors
He experienced
Rewatching friends
Die before his eyes

Marie is a young woman
Dating a soldier
A lucky one
Not wounded physically
Although they are all

I still have nightmares
But am more mature
Way older than the eleven years
I appear to be
I feel like the weight of the world
Rests upon my shoulders

Years have passed
Since the war
But still it haunts me
Although I was just a child
It profoundly
Changed my life

Momma and Poppa pretended
It never happened
Died in denial
That there ever was a war
God rest their souls

Karl’s still restless
Work hard to find
With only one good arm
He fell in love
With a British girl while traveling
And now lives there
Miles away

Marie married her soldier sweetheart
And has two kids
Loud and rambunctious
They are the light
Of her life

To Karl and Marie
It is the past
A time best forgotten
But memories
Are not meant
To be lost

It’s important to remember
And learn
To take the past
And use it
To shape a better future

Each time a nightmare haunts me
I awake more determined
To show the world
The younger generation
Of war

And how it destroys
Not only lives
But families
And futures
And robs the world
Of numerous souls
Filled with emotion
And ideas

It is our job
To show that
War causes incalculable

Now run across my face
Deep like a river
Running rampant
Over a barren desert
Painted in my eyes
Mixed and blended
With the flecks
Of gold and green

People who pass me
On the streets
Shoot me concerned looks
For that one moment
But the next moment

I’ve almost abandoned hope
Locked it up
Chained in a cage
But something
Inside of me
To ever let me do that

Those around me hear
What I have to say
But they don’t listen
Their ears
May be open
But their hearts
Are locked tight

All around me I still see
The repercussions
Of the war
And now there’s talk
Of another war
Another time
Of suffering
I pray
That somehow
Will wrestle the guns
From the arms
Of the soldiers
And transform them
From killers
To humans

Is too powerful of an opponent
For one man
With the weight
Of the world.

My words are lost,
Cast away
By the tornado of war,
Underneath layers
Of hatred
And violence.

That my battle is lost,
I must decide.
This time
I am old enough
To throw away
My innocence
And drape myself
In a long billowing cloak
Of destruction.

The scary thing
Is that, deep down,
I know
My innocence
Is already gone.
I know,
That no matter what happens,
Months from now
I’ll be looking death
Straight in the face
On the frontlines.

If death is merciful
He’ll take my life
Before I take another’s.
I’ll accompany him
Because war
Has ravaged my life.
I am no longer
Haunted by demons.
I am a demon
Brought about by war
To forever haunt the human race.

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