Sunk deep in trenches of the First World War,
amidst the ruins of his British corps,
they find a soldier who has lost his past,
whose brain's been emptied by a mortar blast.
His name and history are now well-concealed.
His mind's a mirror of that battlefield.
This man now rots behind asylum gates,
his thoughts confounded while he sits and waits.
He marks his time against the doubtful day
when his health and spirit stop their slow decay.
To jog his memory is the doctor's aim,
but only time will give him back his name.
A lonely woman lives in town nearby.
Her wartime patience has by now run dry.
She sings and dances on a theatre stage:
a songbird living in a battered cage.
This Paula dreams about a better place,
a world that's weary of its fierce embrace.
Her singing helps her patrons comprehend
an end to war that never seems to end.
A day they thought would never come to pass:
a truce has now been hammered out at last.
The shouts and hollers ring out far and wide;
the crowded streets are bursting out with pride,
But no one's guarding the asylum door,
so no one's watching as the inmates pour.
A few will vanish in the noisy throng;
their newfound freedom will not last for long.
But as our soldier tries to settle in,
confusion haunts him in this human din.
He scans the faces of the drunken crowd
for someone able to erase his cloud,
a nod, a wink, an understanding look,
for one who'll tell him what the battles took.
Paula is pushing through the noisy mob.
It's quite a while since she's enjoyed her job.
She knows her patrons will all sing and shout;
she knows this evening they'll be sold right out.
She sees our soldier in the street ahead,
a muddled member of the walking dead.
She knows this soldier's from the funny farm,
but she likes his manner and his gentle charm.
He's wandered aimlessly for quite a while
so she offers comfort and a friendly smile.
This quiet man may be her only chance
to give some meaning to her song and dance.
A few days later all the noise dies down;
it's back to normal in this dreary town.
But life is slower than it was before;
so many perished in that awful war.
To asylum coffers all but one return;
our missing soldier is their main concern.
The doctors hunt him in the foggy gloom,
but Paula keeps him in her private room.
To send him back would give him little hope;
a life of living on a slippery slope,
seeking a saviour who would never come,
avoiding fate to which he'd soon succumb.
She'll nurse him back until he's fit once more;
release his psyche from unending war.
She'll bring some spirit to his sickly frame.
She'll call him "Smithy", for he likes that name.
It's time they leave their little town behind.
She won't want Smithy to remain confined.
She says good riddance to her life on stage,
with tiny benefit and smaller wage.
They're careful not to leave a single trace.
They find a home in some idyllic place,
without the bar-rooms and the dancing halls,
without the doctors and asylum walls.
Now Paula works inside a grocer's shop
while Smithy labours at a whistle stop.
They've made a life amongst the folks around;
they've made new friendships in this little town.
Smithy is charming with his quiet touch.
His former surname doesn't matter much.
Their new life's filled with all the simple things,
the pleasures only newfound passion brings.
In two short months a wedding dress is worn
and life seems perfect when their baby's born.
But Smithy's found himself a new career:
for the sounds of nature he has quite an ear.
A northern paper now has just decreed
intrepid Smithy is the man they need.
Out on the railroad lucky Smithy goes,
but when returning, no one really knows.
Up north, the morning air is feeling fine
till Smithy's flustered by a traffic sign.
For city noises he is quite unfit;
a taxi lunges and he's badly hit.
He lifts his head and he's a different man,
the one he was back when the war began.
His gift of memory is now unsurpassed,
the shades of battle lifted up at last.
But Fate has given him a cruel twist,
for his child and Paula simply don't exist.
Conceiving nothing of his son and wife,
he can't remember that idyllic life.
His world's now spinning on a different sphere;
he's a wealthy magnate, Mister Charles Rainier.
Three weeks go by without a single word.
Paula can guess what might have just occurred.
Her Smithy's mind has taken up its slack;
he's found his past and won't be coming back.
She knows that Smithy wouldn't run away,
her hold on him's too strong to disobey.
He must've suffered a severe relapse,
his mind awash with all-new mental gaps.
All thoughts of her are in some hidden place.
He can't remember Paula's lovely face.
But Paula's baby cries from dusk till dawn
so she can't run off to find where Smithy's gone.
Her son is sickly and his health decays;
the baby dies within its first ten days.
With all the sorrows that she needs to drown
there's nothing left but tracking Smithy down.
She'll soon restore him to his normal frame,
and she'll call him "Smithy", and he'll know that name.
(...to be continued)