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A poem by Everard Jack Appleton

The Alien

Title:     The Alien
Author: Everard Jack Appleton [More Titles by Appleton]

(Of course, this didn't happen,
But if it had--
Would you have been shocked?)

She was a pretty little thing,
Round-headed, bronze-haired and trim
As a yacht.
And when she married a handsome, polished Prussian
(Before the war was ours)
Her friends all said
She'd made no mistake.
He had much money, and he wasn't arrogant--
To her.
Their baby came--
Big and blue-eyed,
Solemn and serious,
With his father's arrogance in the small.
She knew how wonderful a child he was
And said so.
The husband knew it, too--
Because the child looked like him,
And they were happy
Until the Nation roused itself,
Stretched and yawned
And got into the hellish game of kill.
Then the man,
Who had been almost human,
Dropped his mask,
And uncovered his ragged soul.

Having no sense of right or wrong--
No spiritual standards for measurements;
Feeding upon that same egotism
That swept his country
Into the depths of hate--
He sneered and laughed
At her pale patriotism
And the country that inspired it.
There was no open break between them,
For a child's small hands
Clung to both and kept them close.
Shutting her eyes to all else
Save that she was his wife,
She played her part well.
His work--his bluff at work, instead--
Was something big and important
(Always he looked the importance)
That had to do with ships--
Ships that idled at their docks to-day
Because they were interned.
And there was always money--
More money than she had ever known,--
Which he lavished--on himself
And his desires.

Not that he gave her nothing,
For he did....
They lived in a big hotel,
And the child had everything it should have
And much it should not.
She, too, was cared for well,
After his wants were satisfied.

The silent blow fell.
Secret service men called upon him,
And next day he was taken away
To a detention camp
For alien enemies.
Interned like the anchor-chafing ships
That once had flown his flag!
The woman, up in arms, dinned at officials
Until (so easy-going and so slow to learn)
They told her what he had done.
That night she stared long at their child, asleep,
And at its father's picture,
On her dresser....
Did the wife-courage that transcends
All other kinds of bravery
Keep her awake for hours,
Planning, scheming, thinking?

* * * * *

A week later she and the child--
A blue-eyed, self-assertive mite--
Were at the camp,
She carrying it (the nurse was left behind)
And the passports that allowed her to see him
One hour, with a guard five yards away.
Some of his polite impudence was gone,
Yet he threw back his head and shoulders
And shrugged as his wife and boy came in.
"Always late," said he, after a perfunctory kiss,
"You--and your country!"
She stared long at him, holding the child close,
Her own round, bronze head bowed.

Then, with a swift glance at the guard
Thoughtfully chewing a straw and looking
At the city of shacks,
She spoke.
"Did you know, Karl," she whispered,
"That my brother was on that transport--
My only brother--a soldier--my only blood?
If it had gone down--that transport--been sunk--"
"Well?" said he. That was all.
"My brother--my only--Karl!"
"Well?" said he again. "What of it?"
Then--her little head lifted, her eyes gone mad--
"This!" she said. "Rather than give
Life to another human scorpion like you--
Man in form only!--Lower than the floor of hell itself;
Rather than have my blood mingle with
The foul poison that is yours,
To make a child of ours--
This: I give him back to you--
And recall my love--all of my love!"
Again he shrugged his shoulders,
Yawned--and saw, too late.

Swift as the eagle that drives a lamb to death
She whipped a hat-pin from her dainty hat,
Drove it with steady aim
Into the baby's heart
And handed back to the gulping man
All that was left of what had once meant joy--
A dead baby with red bubbles on its lips!

[The end]
Everard Jack Appleton's poem: Alien