Из искры возгорится пламя – From a spark the fire will flare up, Alexander Odoevsky

Only one thing to do, say NO!

Wolfgang Borchert
Then There’s Only One Thing To Do! (1947)
Translated by Ryan Wilcox

You. Man at the machine and man in the workshop. If they order you
tomorrow to stop making water pipes and cook pots and start
making helmets and machine guns, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Girl behind the counter and girl at the office. If they order
you tomorrow to fill hand grenades and mount scopes on sniper rifles,
then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Factory owner. If they order you tomorrow, to sell gun powder
instead of talcum powder and cocoa, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Researcher in the laboratory. If they order you tomorrow, to
invent a new death to do away with old life, then there’s only one
thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Poet in your room. If they order you tomorrow not to sing
love songs, but songs of hate, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Doctor at the sick bed. If they order you tomorrow to certify
men as fit for war, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Minister in the pulpit. If they order you tomorrow to bless
murder and praise war as holy, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Captain on the steamer. If they order you tomorrow not to
transport wheat but cannons and tanks, then there’s only one
thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Pilot at the airfield. If they order you tomorrow to carry
bombs and incineraries over cities, then there’s only one thing to
do:
Say NO!
You. Tailor at your table. If they order you tomorrow to start
sewing uniforms, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Judge in your robe. If they order you tomorrow to report to
the military court, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Man at the train station. If tomorrow they order you to
give the signal for the ammunition and the troop trains to
depart, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO!
You. Man in the village and man in the city. If they come for
you tomorrow and with your induction papers, then there’s
only one thing to do:
Say NO!

You. Mother in Normandy and mother in the Ukraine, you, mother
in Frisco and London, you, on the banks of the Huang Ho and the
Mississippi, you, mother in Nepal and Hamburg and Cairo and Oslo –
mothers in all regions on earth, mothers all over the world, if
they order you tomorrow to bear children – nurses for military
hospitals and new soldiers for new battles, mothers all over the
world, then there’s only one thing to do:
Say NO! Mothers, say NO!

Because if you don’t say NO, if YOU don’t say no, mothers, then;

then:

In the noisy port cities, hazy with steam, the large groaning ships
will grow silent, and like titanic, mammoth corpses, filled with
water, they will lethargically totter against the lifeless, lonely,
algae-, seaweed-, and shell-covered walls of the docks, the body
that previously appeared so gleaming and threatening now reaking
like a foul fish cemetery, rotten, sickly and dead –

the streetcars will be senselessly bent and dented like dull,
glass-eyed birdcages and lie like petals beside the confused, steel
skeletons of the wires and tracks, behind rotten sheds with holes
in their roofs, in lost, crater-strewn streets –

a mud-gray, heavy, leaden silence will roll in, voracious
and growing in size, will establish itself in the schools and
universities and theaters, on sport fields and children’s playgrounds,
horrible and greedy and unstoppable –

the sunny, juicy grapes will spoil on the neglected slopes, the rice
will dry up in the desolate earth, the potatoes will freeze in the
plowed fields and the cows will stretch their dead, rigid legs into
the sky like upturned milking stools –

in the institutions, the ingenious inventions of the great physicians
will become sour, rot, mold into fungus –

the last sacks of flour, the last jars of strawberries, the pumpkins
and the cherry juice will spoil in the kitchens, chambers and cellars,
in the cold storage lockers and storage areas – the bread under the
upturned tables and on splintered plates will become green and the
melted butter will smell like soft soap, the grain on the fields will
have bent down to the earth alongside rusty plows like a defeated army,
and the smoking, brick chimneys, the food and smokestacks of the stamping
factories, covered by eternal grass, will crumble, crumble, crumble –

then the last human being, clueless with slashed intestines and
polluted lungs, will wander alone under the poisonous, glowing sun and
vacillating constellations, wander lonely among immense mass graves and
cold idols of the gigantic, concrete-block, deserted cities, the
last human being, scrawny, mad, blasphemous, complaining – and his
terrible complaint: WHY? will trickle away unheard into
the steppe, waft through the burst ruins and die out in the rubble of
churches, slap against inpenetratable bunkers, fall into pools of blood,
unheard, answerless, the last animal-like cry of the last animal human being –

all of this will come about, tomorrow, tomorrow perhaps, perhaps
already tonight, if – if – if – you don’t
say NO.

Poem was taken from WP blog, Antiwar literary and philosophical selections

 

 

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