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  • Just prior to the outbreak of WWI, my paternal grandfather had to return to Italy to settle an estate. Unable to leave the country once war was declared, Grandpa was given a choice: enlist in the Italian army, or be shot as a spy. He opted for the former, and served his time, while Grandma managed the family and their businesses. While far from home and loved ones, he kept a journal.

    At some point, a photocopy of this document came into my father's possession, along with a translation of a few of the entries from their original Italian. On these pages, I see my grandfather's beautiful script and hear the loneliness and longing in his words.

    Here are a selection of "found poems" in my grandfather's voice:

    I. Malachin

    Last night
    at the usual hour
    we had a roll call
    of the 13th squad
    and everybody was present
    except for one soldier,
    He is a country boy
    and he likes to drink wine.
    This evening
    he is still missing
    and nobody knows
    where he is
    or if anything happened to him.
    The Commandant of the platoon
    ordered us
    to look for him
    for some time
    and at 11 pm
    he was declared a deserter.
    Pity for him.

    II. Mail Call

    The mail came this morning,
    but for me, nothing.
    I write almost every day,
    but for me always nothing.
    Word goes around
    that in a few days
    we have to advance,
    and we hope
    that God will keep us
    in good health and safe,
    so we can be together and
    I think about my loved ones a lot...a lot.

    III. Cold

    The icy air really
    cuts your face
    and freezes your feet.
    Just in a few minutes,
    your feet
    are not just frozen
    but like marble.
    The night is beautiful,
    with so many stars,
    a night for lovers!
    The stars shine so
    in the sky.
    If a poet were here,
    he would write
    some beautiful
    poetic words.
    I look at my watch
    and the time is 2 am.
    We have to stay up
    for another 3 hours
    with this
    tremendous cold air
    and we feel
    the nervousness
    of the time.

    IV. Battle

    We hear the sound
    of battle
    machine gun fire
    and even the air
    smells of
    gun powder.
    We also hear soldiers calling for help
    and, to top it all off,
    is the feeling
    of insecurity,
    the end of this
    messy and gory raid.
    The potent
    machine gun light
    sweeps across the land
    and everything is dead silent.
    But this time
    the light has a
    from the other side,
    and it seems that
    it is a duel
    between the
    two giant lights.
    Our light is
    and the enemy light
    tries to confuse us.
    After a while,
    the lights from both sides
    go off.
    No winners.
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