Hurtgen, 28 Nov 1944


Joseph Tate





A dense German forest

         a cold Winter night

a foxhole, a boom and you’re

         out like a—





(Forest a black-iron furnace gone cold,

the valley mud-puddled with melting snow, ash, and urine;


hot shrapnel howling sparks through dark twined treetops,

burning lines through branches, trunks


shuddered into serrate splinters, green

wood hissing pops of blue heat)


That medic man says to me: O man, O boy—howd you end up

here (he points at my foot a few feet away) and there?


Well I was hunky-dory, hunkered down shoulders-to-ears in a

foxhole when a potato masher rolled in the hole and







(a potato masher, a


Stielhand- [Stiel meaning

stalk and/or stick, meaning wood


handle for a Handgranate (HAHNT-gra-na-ta)

meaning trinitrotoluene in a tin metal cap.


] granate [“grenade” from granatum, Cf. pomegranate,

see also garnet, see also the snow


red with blood)







and like a rabbit I lept up, but not quite out,

one lucky foot left in


when a locomotive boom of white light

scattered the night into fidgets of reds and greens and


scatter-shook my ears, them ringing nongoddamnstop like a

pinprick peal of bell metal, a thin silver


filament of noise, and

and next I knowd I was out like a







(sunlight, it is the season of red shoulders, skin salty from itself,

eyes clenched closed, reblooming azaleas wild white


and pink, tall pines weeping chalkwhite resin and

crackdry branch tips droop in black spindles)


like when my finger felt its belly for the bullet, that rabbit’s

ribcage pounding in fresh


pain, lucky foot twisted in woodbine bramble, brindle

fur sparkling with urine in a sunbeam and I







wake to he’s waking me / he’s feeling

my leg for lead fragments, compacting rock-flecked


snow and sulfa powder ice-tight around tendon, tissue and

bone, as frost drips from the firs and a


skylark starts its click-stutter loop of

morning chirrups.


I end up evacuated down the single-lane firebreak track

past saplings in nursery rows reaching up from the


shadows of tree wells, past blankets draped over

frozeblue bodies, olivedrab wool


soaked blackcherry red,

and I said


O boy, O man, howd this man, howd that boy, O

Lord, how does anyone end up here.









Joseph Tate’s poems and multimedia work have appeared in Measure, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Euphony, The Found Poetry Review, The Kudzu Review, E·ratio, Yemassee and other publications.  He has published and lectured on Radiohead, Shakespeare and prosody. 



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