Then There is Only One Thing To Do!

Wolfgang Borchert

You. Man at the machine and man in the workshop. If they order you tomorrow to make steel helmets and machine-guns, instead of water-pipes and cooking pots, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Girl behind the store counter and girl in the office. If they order you tomorrow to fill granades and mount sights for sniper-rifles, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Factory owner. If they order you tomorrow to sell gunpowder instead of powder and cocao, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Researcher in the laboratory. If they order you tomorrow to invent a new death against old life, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Poet in your room. If they order you tomorrow to sing songs of hate instead of love songs, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Doctor by the sick-bed. If they order you tomorrow to declare men able for war, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Priest at the pulpit. If they order you tomorrow to bless murder, and declare war as holy, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Captain of the steam ship. If they order you tomorrow to transport canons and tanks, instead of wheat, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Pilot on the runway. If they order you tomorrow to carry bombs and phosphor over the cities, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Tailor at your cutting table. If they order you tomorrow to cut uniforms, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Judge in your robe. If they order you tomorrow to attend a court-martial, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Man at the railway station. If they order you tomorrow to give signals for the departure of the munitions train and the transport of troops, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Man in the village and man in the city. If they arrive tomorrow with your call-up order, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
You. Mother in Normandy and mother in Ukraine, you, mother in San Francisco and London, you by the Hoangho and Mississippi, you mother in Naples and Hamburg, and Cairo and Oslo – Mothers on all continents, mothers of the world, when they order you tomorrow to bear children, nurses for military hospitals, and new soldiers for new battles, mothers of the world, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO!
Mothers, say NO!
Because if you don’t say NO, if you don’t say no, mothers, then: then:
In the noisy foghazed harbour towns, the big ships will sigh into silence and sway against the dead quay walls like titanic giant carrion, inert, aquatic corpses, rot-covered in algee, seaweed and mussels.
The hitherto so shiny bellowing vessel, a fish-rotten stenching graveyard, worn, wasted, dead -
The trams will lie like meaningless dim glass-eyed cages, stupid dented and peeling, beside the deranged steel skeletons of overhead cables and tracks, behind crumbling hole-ridden-roof sheds, in lost crater-torn streets -
A mud-grey, thick leaden silence will roll its way up, greedily eating, growing, it will grow in the schools and universities and theatres, sports and play-grounds, horrifying and greedy, unstoppable -
The sun-ripened juicy wine will rot on the run-down slopes, the rice will dry out in the drought-shrivelled earth, the potatos will freeze on the abandoned fields and the cows will stretch their stiff dead legs towards the sky like upturned milking stools -
The medical institute’s ingenius inventions by the great physicians will turn sour, rot and go mildew -
In the kitchens, pantries and cellars, in the cooling-houses and warehouses, the bags of flour, the last glasses of strawberries, pumpkin and cherry-juice will go off -
The bread lying beneath upturned tables and on smashed plates will turn green, and the runny butter will stink like soft-soap, the grain in the fields next to rusty ploughs will have fallen like a defeated army and the smoking brick chimneys, the glowing coals and slag of the noisy factories will be covered by eternal grass, crumbled, crumbled – crumbled
Then the last human will stumble around aimlessly with busted guts and poisened lungs clueless and alone beneath the toxic scorching sun, alone amongst the unmistakable mass graves and the cold craven idols of the giant concrete-block desolate cities, the last human thin mad cursing wailing -
and his horrifying accusation: WHY? will be lost in the plains unheard, blow through the polished ruins, drop into the rubble of the churches, bounce against overground bunkers, fall into pools of blood, unheard, unanswered, last animal cry of the last human animal -
all this will happen tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, maybe already tonight, maybe tonight, if — if –
if all of you do not say NO.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

*This background photo depicts Vietnam War protesters as they marched to the Capitol in April 1971.*