THIS POEM WAS WRITTEN IN 1947 A FEW DAYS BEFORE WOLFGANG BORCHERT DIED AT THE AGE OF 26.

 

You. Man at the machine and man in the workshop. If tomorrow they tell you you are to make no more water-pipes and saucepans but are to make steel helmets and machine-guns, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

You. Woman at the counter and woman in the office. If tomorrow they tell you you are to fill shells and assemble telescopic sights for snipers' rifles, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

You. Research worker in the laboratory. If tomorrow they tell you you are to invent a new death for the old life, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

You. Priest in the pulpit. If tomorrow they tell you you are to bless murder and declare war holy, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

You. Pilot in your aeroplane. If tomorrow they tell you you are to
carry bombs over the cities, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO!

You. Man of the village and man of the town. If tomorrow they come and give you your call-up papers, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

You. Mother in Normandy and mother in the Ukraine, mother in Vancouver and in London, you on the Hwangho and on the Mississippi, you in Naples and Hamburg and Cairo and Oslo - mothers in all parts of the earth, mothers of the world, if tomorrow they tell you you are to bear new soldiers for new battles, then there's only one thing to do:

Say NO!

For if you do not say NO - if YOU do not say no - mothers, then: then!

In the bustling hazy harbour towns the big ships will fall silent as corpses against the dead deserted quay walls, their once shimmering bodies overgrown with seaweed and barnacles, smelling of graveyards and rotten fish.

The trams will lie like senseless glass-eyed cages beside the twisted steel skeleton of wires and track.

The sunny juicy vine will rot on decaying hillsides, rice will dry in the withered earth, potatoes will freeze in the unploughed land and cows will stick their death-still legs into the air like overturned chairs.

In the fields beside rusted ploughs the corn will be flattened like a beaten army.

Then the last human creature, with mangled entrails and infected lungs, will wander around, unanswered and lonely, under the poisonous glowing sun, among the immense mass graves and devastated cities.

The last human creature, withered, mad, cursing, accusing - and the terrible accusation: WHY?

will die unheard on the plains, drift through the ruins, seep into the rubble of churches, fall into pools of blood, unheard, unanswered,

the last animal scream of the last human animal -

All this will happen tomorrow, tomorrow, perhaps, perhaps even tonight, perhaps tonight, if

- if -You do not say NO.

SAY NO!

by WOLFGANG BORCHERT

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