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Alter Krieg

Federico Federici (2017)

Prelude I.a allegretto

I said: «a hard fight
awaits you, all hope
abandon you and get
to the heart of war
and at my signal shoot.

Heavy bullets count,
not to aim, not whom
to fire at but to shoot,
to shake off the angst
of death.»


Theme, anti-aircraft artillery II.a andante legato

It ended in a black strip
all at once, the town lit up
by mortars firing east
of open borders. The chirp

of crickets filled the dark
of ten black buildings, amid
the shots a black mouth
called the roll.

Shooting blind,
the living held
the dead tight.

Digging holes,
the dead held in
the living’s breaths.


Variation, counter-sonnet II.b andante

At the quiet pulse of truce,
the town wakes and tries to cry
but the eyes are empty cradles.

A thin birch lets the resin leak,
drops dotted veils of snow,
the gems the shots spared unfold.

A deep red rag, tied to a railing,
flaps, death-pact flag resisting
the sharpest hiss of victory,
the joy of conquest and retreat.

A bent over soldier, holding
on to a wire rope to stand,
sneers: the fang of war cut
his last frozen slipknot.


Scherzo II.c vivo

After all pylons have been uprooted,
after all cables have been torn off,
the glass splinters are teetering teeth
in the windy holes of the buildings.

The hanged ones, whose fingers graze
the grass now, trod on the light alive,
a breeze threads their empty mouths
and calls the roll of the dead of war.

The survivors’ deep ears listen to
the spine of the dark tightening over
shattered roofs and mutilate the light.

Who shot in the air has no guilt.
A goldfinch sings in the lap of a dead
man, who’ll soon hide in the oak’s grasp.


Truce II.d con moto

The bodies in the trenches make little noise,
their limbs suck the clay where the snow withdraws.

The job of life is to let out its own grown flesh,
is the blossoming of the white stemmed rose picked bending over the mouths where the grass breathes,
white rag confused with surrender in death.

The dead glimpse the oak-leaves cover their furrows,
the white hare nibble the acorns the fox noses out.

Heaped scorched shells and stripped bolts,
still wet rusted cans, culverts collapsed piling
silence, thoughts cast deeper into crude oil pools,
frosty awns, firmament of the tilled fields.

Under the glance of a late lightning, the dead name


From: Federico Federici: Alter Krieg. Morrisville, 2017.

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