The carriage in the forest
After three days of arguing the armistice was signed
in the French general’s private train
at a siding in the forest of Compiegne.
The Kaiser left for exile in Holland.
The military, unwilling to admit defeat,
still surrendered guns and planes.
No one told the people how bad things were.
A German corporal, recovering
after being gassed the month before,
a misfit whose life only made sense
in the trenches, blamed surrender
on socialists and revolutionaries,
treacherous tricksters; Germany
hadn’t really lost at all.
Comrades had regarded him as weird,
sat in a corner of the mess on his own.
Didn’t care about leave or women,
received no letters or parcels from home.
The railway carriage, displayed in Paris,
returned to the forest where it remained.
When world war resumed, with swagger
and swastikas the corporal received France’s
surrender among the trees, in the same
compartment; the misfit’s moment of revenge.