First a bright, brief drum roll,
A bang and explosion into the blue day.
Then a noise, like rockets climbing on
Iron rails. Fear and long silence.
Then suddenly in the distance smoke and a fall,
A strange hard dark echo.
In the sky the howitzers no longer explode,
The cannoneers rest next to their guns.
The infantry pitch tents now,
And the pale moon slowly rises.
On yellow fields in red trousers, the French are ablaze,
Ashen pale from death and powder.
Among them German medics squat.
The day becomes grayer, its sun redder.
Field kitchens steam. Towns are put to the torch.
Broken carts stand at roadsides.
Panting cyclists, hot and tanned, loiter
At a scorched wooden fence.
And orderlies are already moving
From regiment to division.
The earth grows moldy in fog.
The evening is as oppressive as lead.
Electric sparks crackle and whimper all around,
Breaking everything in two.
Like wretched hobos
Cities are smoking on the horizon.
I lie, God-forsaken,
In the rattling front line of defenders.
Many copper enemy birds
Buzz around heart and brain.
I stand firm in the grayness
And defy death.