Thursday, November 11, 2010


He brought back a Luger

from World War II;

we all need our trophies

and he had a few.

A Purple Heart medal,

a couple of scars,

a letter in German

and one silver star.

And he had his stories,

his songs and his rants,

his men in the trenches,

a young gal in France,

but he never mentioned

how he came to own

a Jerry boy’s pistol

one night near the Rhone.

Fifty years later

he left it behind

with three other guns

that his son had consigned

to buy a piano;

he hadn’t a need

for his father's weapons,

souvenirs of his deeds.

Sometimes, even now,

I can hear his son play

when the window is wide

and the breeze blows this way,

and maybe it’s crazy,

but I think somehow

those hammers are beating

a sword

to a plow.


Karen said...

Very nice and so totally appropriate for this day. (You always manage to do that -- and well!) Your details - the few things he brought back, along with his rants, make this real to me. That his son hocked the guns for a piano is a wonderful touch, and teh ending is perfect, of course. This reminds me of my father's service in Germany as an MP during the end of WWII. He had pictures and lots of funny stories, but for some reason, he tore all of the pictures to bits a few years ago. I think all the stories were not so funny, even after all this time. I can't even imagine what he must have seen and done there. That you can make art of it is a great feat I think my dad would appreciate.

One of my favorite poems is Henry Reed's Naming of Parts. If you don't know it, it's worth your while.

Jannie Funster said...

Wow! This is so cool.

And reminds me of something I recently heard about Churchill. When they were cutting back school funding for the war effort, when Churchill was suggested the art and music programs could be cut he answered."Then what are we fighting for??. No."

Okay , so I totally totally that probably not correctly to the word, but maybe you get my drift? Pianos. Lugers. Very very interesting juxtapositions. And inventively and rivetingly told, as usual, Joaquin.

Awesome, as usual!!


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

What a perfect poem for today. I'm like Karen, you always DO manage to do that - and well.

I just love the theme of this...from all the keepsakes of war the father had kept - the horrors, the memories they evoke, from all the souvenirs of battle he had there in his collection, there comes music on the breeze. The exact opposite of gunfire, canons, tanks, bombs, et. al. Very telling. Your last line simply superb at summing it up.
Out of something so terrible - something beautiful can come...with the right vision.

Terresa said...

Beautiful tribute on Veteran's Day. Haunting, melancholy, I like the bit about hearing his son play when the window is wide and the breeze blows.

My grandpa served in WWII and helped liberate a concentration camp. I need to write that into a poem someday...harrowing, nuts, war is, and those who live through it, awe me.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. Remnants of a war once fought can help make music eh? Touching. I must say, I miss reading your blog when I don't have any Internet. It sucks.

joaquin carvel said...

karen - thank you - i didn't put veteran's day and thursday together until - uh - late - i'm slow sometimes, but it comes around eventually. :) thank you - that your dad tore up his photos is jarring - telling, i guess, of how difficult it is for any soldier to fully come home. it is almost to much to imagine.

jannie - that is an awesome churchill story / quote - one that i wish was engraved in our state capitol rotunda. :) i get your drift - and i think you got mine. i'm just thankful i get to experience the piano part and not the luger part. thank you!

k. - it really wasn't much of a holiday when i was younger, but the older i get, the more it means. thank you - yes, if the echos of shells can become echos of music, i guess it helps make a little sense of it all. :)

terresa - me too. i have no idea - but i would think it would be hard to beat liberating a concentration camp, as far as answering the "what are we doing here?" that must sort of be a constant. anyway - thank you - i'm so grateful for people like your gramps.

swati - thank you - i guess in a perfect world it always would - but in this one, we take what we can get. (what?! no internet sucks!)

Kits said...

Wonderful verse J. Am coming here after a while so please be excusing me :) I love the Luger and piano juxtaposition as someone above pointed out very rightly. Keep it coming

Dick Jones said...

This works so well. Plain language, image free, leading to that wonderful, still simple, final stanza.