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A Stretcher in the Moreuil Forest, 1918

After Erich Maria Remarque’s
“All Quiet on the Western Front”

Pink ice crystals gather on the blanket like Poplars at a pooling stream.
In his village there is such a stream and pool; trees that shelter like
the hunched old men he has seen on the Rues and
Boulevards, and in darkened doorways.

When the mortars howl he knows what to do. He has a clear sense of self,
holds tightly to his clothes for a clean mortar strike strips a man and
he has seen lifeless blue-naked and frozen in mud; parted
lips crying in the sleet.

He grew used to explosions that quarried a rain of soil and human parts; the
accoutrements of pulsing sound that had no resonance in so small
a creature. It stirred only echoes in his chest, in that hollow
space between breaths.

The silence of the stretcher defiles him with lucid horrors. The bearers : stiff,
grunting men drag on cigarettes tipped with glowing tracer-embers, they
stumble and curse his weight as they step round
craters and turgid water.

He feels spilling tears and the blanket, red and warm, if lifted slowly like
a litograph will reveal the drifting colours of Autumn;
a fading vessel-yellow, a leaf
pressed in clay.

Clayton Hansen


“The ventriloquist’s child” Interactive Press 2001 

Brief note on the poem : A Stretcher in the Moreuil Forest, 1918

 In 1929 Erich Maria Remarque’book “All Quiet on the Western Front” was the highest selling work of fiction on the planet. Isn’t it ironic that a book that took such a strong position on the desolation of war; its futility, its warping insensivities, its toll of death should be followed ten years later by a second World War ?

 This poem is the merest shadow of Remarque’s fine work. But, like any shadow, I hope it captures the attention of whose who read it, not to its own ethereal being, but as a testament to the profound message in “All Quiet on the Western Front” and the very human realities that are the waste of war.

Biography :  http://www.thylazine.org/directory/directh.html

© Clayton Hansen