Felix Pollak

Felix Pollak (1909–1987) was an American poet. Pollak was born in Vienna, Austria in 1909. While studying law and  theatre at the University of Vienna, he was forced to emigrate to the United States after the Anschluss of  Austria by Nazi Germany. He worked as a door-to-door salesman in New York City before attending the University of Buffalo, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in library sciences in 1941.

While working as a librarian, Pollak was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, where he worked as a translator for German prisoners of war. After the war, he attended the University of Michigan, where he received a master's degree in library science in 1949. Pollak also finally received his Dr.Jur. from the University of Vienna in 1953.
From 1949 to 1959, Pollak worked as a rare books library at Northwestern University. He became a rare books librarian at the University of Wisconsin in 1959, where he remained until 1974. In addition to his work as a librarian, Pollak was also an accomplished poet. His work appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, The Madison Review, and the Wisconsin Academy Review. His most famous poem: "Speaking: The Hero" is cited as one of the great peace poems of the Vietnam era. The University of Wisconsin Press annually awards a poetry prize named after Pollak.

Source: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Pollak


Speaking: The Hero

I did not want to go.
They inducted me.

I did not want to die.
They called me yellow.

I tried to run away.
They courtmartialed me.

I did not shoot.
They said I had no guts.

I cried in pain.
They carried me to safety.

In safety I died.
They blew taps over me.

They crossed out my name
And buried me under a cross.

They made a speech in my home town.
I was unable to call them liars.

They said I gave my life.
I had struggled to keep it.

They said I set an example
I had tried to run.

They said they were proud of me.
I had been ashamed of them.

They said my mother should be proud.
My mother cried.

I wanted to live.
They called me a coward.

I died a coward.
They called me a hero.