Old Wounds: Warmth in the Winter of 1914​-​1915

by Perfect Future

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released 08 May 2012

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Track Name: Prologue: A Sea of Wheat
Though we have never met, I write to explain unfortunate interconnectedness. Please listen; I'm the contorted soldier that you have hated since the day that you received that parcel in the post bearing a brief letter, postmarked New Years 1915 that read "Your husband is dead." Please listen--don't destroy these words until you've read every one. It's not like I'm unique; I'm just one grain in a sea of wheat that's ever-expanding exponentially. We were all raised on cap guns and war. As soon as we could walk, we, boys, turned twigs into firearms. Who can remember a waking moment devoid of the faint yet distinct murmur of heroes, of glory for God and Country? And in school when the subtext of history class is the differences between "us" and "them" (highlighting their nation's atrocities and omitting that of our own) how could anyone expect that the war would ever end? Without second thoughts, we were soldiers before signing up.
Track Name: State-Sanctioned Morality
When I heard prime ministers speak through frequencies, I knew I had found it: my entire life leading up to a moment where I could prove my worth with a head count. In basic, I was taught how to kill and (more importantly) how to cope. They said, "Be desensitized in everything you do! Anyone beneath a different banner than you doesn't deserve a dog's death. They're less human than us. Don't mourn, don't grieve, and don't lose sleep when you fire off rounds into their chests." When we heard drill sergeants scream, we, the crowd, agreed. Cut off from society, worked until delirium until we believed. We were given a new war-friendly, state-sanctioned morality.
Track Name: How the World Works
Every time I flip the hourglass, I receive perspective. I can add it up in piles of sand. How did I ever ignore such imperfections? After the smoke cleared, only the governments gained. Empires and emperors have never felt shrapnel, their relatives weren't casualties. After the cities are razed (and the names are stripped from those buried beneath rubble), they speak in abstracts about "acceptable losses." And this is nothing new. If only I would have known, I would have tried to change the world-how it works.
Track Name: End Bringer
Look at my hands. They're calloused, scarred, and normal. Would you imagine them capable of deciding whether a family sees their father again? I once created a life, and now I bring it unto an end. It's hard to believe just how things have changed. It seems like yesterday, I spent Christmas Eve away at my Grandfather's house... he took me caroling (even though I said I was too old). We gave all we had to the salvation army. But I'm no longer that child. My commands are simple, they read as follows: "Fire at each silhouette." I killed so I could live. It's hard to believe just how things have changed. Where's the honor on the front lines, while I spray them down with machine gun fire? It seems to me, the outcome is decided by technology. It's hard to believe just how things have changed. Hiding in trenches, I sit and wait. No heroics, no glory, no valor. Science now dictates the shift in power.
Track Name: Divine Tragedy
After spending ten months in a stand still, not even the fraying patch of the flag could reignite a passion for a "greater good" that I couldn't see. After spending ten months in the infernos seventh circle...there's no escaping disillusion. This war to end all wars, divine tragedy, is never ending. This ain't our father's kind of combat.
Track Name: On Christmas Eve, the Infantry Sang
In this new sort of silent night (caused by the terror of giving away positions) languages intertwined.
In this new sort of silent night (caused by intently listening for the footsteps of phantom enemies) we lifted our voices high-- as if we depended on them to survive. As always, sound waves sparked the change. From the deepest roots in the earth ever cut, the notes swelled then sustained. Those refrains sounded so familiar even in different tongues.
Track Name: Men Aren't Moles; Crawl Out of Those Holes
Let's not romanticize or pretend we found paradise. The gentle calm that we obtained was just the eye of a hurricane. But to learn the names of "the enemy"...to play games with their infantry...to rejoice together on Christmas Eve, feels like nothing you'd believe. Such unbearable loneliness; where to begin on listing off things that I had missed? But for six days, we remembered how things were before, how things could be. How could things ever go back to how they were?
Track Name: Bury the Dead
In the morning, we found that the half decayed bodies of friends and comrades were calling out to us: "Bury the dead." Emerging from our muddy, makeshift homes we let guns rest while we put shovels to the test. We buried bodies ten feet deep to make sure they were put to rest.
In the morning, the stiff bodies surrounded us. "We must bury the dead". That's how I met him, your husband. He was the first to lay down his weapon and use a bayonet to dig a grave for an Englishman. They said "Dead is dead in the end, why should we care which way their rifle's pointed?", because back home, his family, his lover, and his friends would have wanted this. Together while the others said "He must have laid a dozen to rest." The onlookers emerged one by one, those without shovels took their helmets and dug. The infantry worked on past the setting sun.
Track Name: ...Must Come to an End
When the echoes of the gunshots finally faded into nothing, the capitals couldn't stand the silence. Kaiser, Caesar, King, Democratic leader: at heart they're all the same. That silent night, that holy night, that started in the trenches, born from the margins, ended swiftly with the decree: "No prisoners or mercy!" That silent night, that holy night, offered relief from a society that's been complacent since the farmer Cain immortalized his name. "...Of the people? ...By the people? ...For the people?" Such an old game: let the poorest and most patriotic slaughter each other for the fame of a leader that's unashamed.
Track Name: Into the Light
I needed to explain out my thoughts before I could write out what I've meant to say from the start. Here it is, stripped of meter and un-obscured by metaphor:

In 1914, when the Christmas lights burned brighter than the stars, the carols echoed from the trenches. We forgot about the war. In "no mans land," he showed me a picture of you, his wife. It was remarkable how much you looked like mine. That night we talked in fragments and shared cigarettes. It wouldn't be accurate to say we became friends, but we did exchange addresses so that we could visit and write if we both made it out of that damned war alive. But down the chain of command, fraternization, over night, became an act of treason. I didn't think much of it until I saw him emerge with a white flag. As he smiled and walked closer, I screamed "Go back!" My commanding officer must have heard me, because he turned his gun on me and said "You're the one who will shoot. If you don't there won't be one widow, there will be two." At first, I shot off to the right, hoping that he might get scared, but he kept coming closer waving a letter. I said a prayer, wished that everything leading up to this moment had never transpired, and then I pulled the trigger. The pain never seems to fade. On a reconnaissance mission, a week later, I managed to snag the letter, which warned us of an air-raid and offered us refuge in their trench.

I'm not writing to ask for forgiveness from you, because after all this time I am still unable to forgive myself, and since the day that I killed him every second has been a hell where the pain never seems to fade. A better world must be possible. Another world must be possible.