Lament in 1915

I CALL you, and I call you. Oh come home,

You lonely creature. Curse the foreign clown

Who plugged you with that lead, and knocked you down.

Stand up again and laugh, you wandering friend,

Say, as you would: “It's just a little hole;

It will soon mend.”

Walk now into the room. Come! Come! Come! Come!

Come! we will laugh together all the night.

(We shall have poured ourselves a glass or two.)

Sit down. Our mutual mirth will reach its height

When we remember how they called you dead,

And I shall ask you how it felt, and you—

“Oh nothing. Just a tumble. Rather hot,

The feeling in my side; and then my head

A trifle dizzy, but I'm back again.

I lay out there too long, and I've still got,

When I think of it, just a little pain.”

I know the way you tumbled. … Once you slid

And landed on your side. I noticed then

A trick of falling; some peculiar glide—

A curious movement, not like other men.

But did your mouth drop open? Did your breath

Hurt you? What sort of feeling quickly came,

When you discovered that it might be death?

And what will happen if I shout your name?

Perhaps you may be there behind the door,

And if I raise my voice a little more,

You'll swing it open. I don't know how thick

The black partition is between us two.

Answer, if you can hear me; friend, be quick …

Listen, the door-bell rang! Perhaps it's you.

You're in the room. You're sitting in that chair,

You are! … I will go down. It was the bell.

You may be waiting at the door as well.

Am I not certain I shall find you there? …

You're rigged in your best uniform to-day;

You take a momentary martial stand,

Then step inside and hold me out your hand,

And laugh in that old solitary way.

You don't know why you did it. All this while

You've slaved and sweated. Now you're very strong,

And so you tell me with a knowing smile:

“We're going out to Flanders before long.”

I thought you would come back with an ugly hole

Below your thigh,

And ask for sympathy and wander lame;

I thought you'ld be that same

Grumbling companion without self-control—

I never thought you'ld die.

*****

Now let us both forget this brief affair:

Let us begin our friendship all again.

I'm going down to meet you on the stair.

Walk to me! Come! for I can see you plain.

How strange! A moment I did think you dead.

How foolish of me!

Friend! friend! Are you dumb?

Why are you pale? Why do you hang your head?

You see me? Here's my hand. Why don't you come?

Don't make me angry. You are there, I know.

Is not my house your house? There is a bed

Upstairs. You're tired. Lie down; you must come home.

Some men are killed … not you. Be as you were.

And yet—Somehow it's dark down all the stair.

I'm standing at the door. You are not there.

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