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James Oppenheim: Extracts from 1914—and After

A poem a day
International WWI Poetry Month

Extracts from 1914—and After

James Oppenheim (USA, 1916)

What want we with the Spring?
We have cast in roaring foundries the dark-bored steel,
And like gods have snatched the chemical might of the Earth,
And devised a killing and a crime . . .

Out of the murder of our hearts, we have wrought great havoc . . .
Sinking of ships at sea, and the toppling of cities,
And the mowing of living hosts!

What want we with the Spring?

***

Spring?
The hosts contend together:
Cities are become dust-heaps:
The young god, the Creator,
Has turned fury and fiend, the Destroyer . . .

Strange sowing of seed goes on:
This is the year when we sow the Earth with the flesh of young men . . .

***

I passed a prison . . .
Broken men decayed in the damp.

I passed a mill . . .
Children and pale women peered wistfully from the windows . . .

I passed a hospital . . .
Human wreckage sunned there beside the morgue.

I walked through stinking slums . . .
Children nosed in the garbage.

***

Then I went to the home of a friend,
And found darkness . . .
Husband and wife were slowly slaying each other:
Slaying with love.

The woman whispered to me:
‘God ! Could I go to the war! Go to the war and be killed!’