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Remembering: ‘Truce’ by Paul Muldoon

December 21, 2016

‘Truce’

It begins with one or two soldiers

and one or two following

with hampers over their shoulders.

They might be off wildfowling

as they would another Christmas Day,

so gingerly they pick their steps.

No one seems sure of what to do.

All stop when one stops.

 

A fire gets lit. Some spread

their greatcoats on the frozen ground.

Polish vodka, fruit and bread

are broken out and passed round.

The air of an old German song,

the rules of Patience, are the secrets

they”ll share before long.

An artist's impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches"

An artist’s impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

 

They draw on their last cigarettes

as Friday-night lovers, when it’s over,

might get up from their mattresses

to congratulate each other

and exchange names and addresses.

– Paul Muldoon

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