Along the Western Front

Erik Rittenberry


Christmas Eve, 103 years ago tonight,
the world burns burns burns like
the furnace it is, but a hard freeze
sets in after an agonizing week
of wind & rain 
along the Western Front.

Tired and ragged soldiers on both sides
of a senseless, brutal war
emerge, with hands up,
from the trenches
harmonizing Silent Night
in unison
as the snow begins to fall.

For just a few hours, these war-torn
adversaries come together
as allies, as friends, as brothers.

They defy the rules of war,
ignore commands from generals
and politicians, and chisel out
their own peace. A peace not granted
by their masters. Two enemies, together,
under a bleak sky in fields of blood and bones,
laugh and sip whiskey and smoke cigars,
while sharing gifts as the grey dawn
gives way to the bloodshed again.

But for one night, just one night, these
young soldiers escaped the…

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“It’s cold out here
I’m freezin’ ta death!”


An old man
Says teeth chattering
In his skull


I walk past
All the bars the
Hipsters the vagrants
Past the bright lights
Of clubs & stores
That offer no refuge
From the below zero
Glare of street lamps
And cars


But there
She stands freezing
Shaking uncontrollably
On the corner
In a short dress
& a thin puffy coat
Trying to look tough
When she can’t be more
Than 17

“Hey mister !”

“You got a cigarette?”


I turn to look
Across the street


“I’ll suck your cock for twenty dollars”


And in a moment
That seems like an eternity
I stare. It’s that feeling that
Comes over you when it
Seems like everything
Is unreal


But then
It hits me


Not disgust
But a nausea
A sadness that suddenly
Wells up into my gut
My soul and my heart
Broken into 100,000 pieces
In less than 30 seconds


I shake my head …




I don’t have a cigarette for you


Go home.


Your Mom & Dad
Are probably dying
Right now without you

Go find a warm shelter and
Get off this street now or I’ll
Have to call the police


“Fuck You !”


She replies


And again
That nauseous feeling


And sadly
And calmly
I reply back


Not even one
Cigarette or a $20 dollar bill is going to
Save your sorry ass
And if you haven’t already
Noticed God isn’t saving you
Or watching over you


You only have
2 choices


You can freeze
To Death or you can save

And that’s
The only gift
There is




And I don’t care


“Merry Christmas”


And I
Walked off into
The cold & the snow
Knowing nothing
More for her
Could ever be done


~ R.M.2018