There is something gentle about her, a softness, as though she arrived on a gentle breeze, was present before you felt her on the back of your neck, a smile that cast your shadow on the snowy walk. She was often like this, as though knowing she might be an antidote to the harshness of winter, and the losses that piled up as time eroded our lives. We were never sure of what we should say, and so often opted for silence, but she seem to welcome that too, as though it marked a change from something we would never fully understand. We never knew when we might see her, auburn coat dappled by the sun but we welcomed the doe, and she us, and that was always sufficient.
He is never certain what to do on days like this one, when the winter takes a particularly nasty turn, the temperature hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind elects to try to enfold everything it can reach in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away. He walks each day, through the nearby park if the weather is the least bit cooperative, through the neighborhood when not, where at least he can take a small shelter from the wind in the shadow of houses closed up tightly, life walled away within, smarter, he imagines than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing all feeling, but this is his practice, something he does because it requires doing, heeding an edict from an unspoken voice. And later emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs restored, he glances at the weather in hopes the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.
Christmas is a day that demands silence and a certain solitude that we no longer allow. Some say you need to rediscover your inner child, but that isn’t it at all and maybe more the problem, since we all forget that we celebrate an infant and all infants know is peace.
These days we collectively mourn those we have sacrificed on the holy altar of our ignorance. There was a time when we limited war to one per generation, but we now wage them in clusters, it being easier to deal with the interminable periods of boredom where we have nothing to do but imagine peace.
He lies on the steam grate under a thin blanket and plastic garbage bags, sleeping soundly lulled by vibrations of a passing car, back to the Ellipse and grand white house, oblivious to footfalls of tourists and joggers. Steam seeps upward through his tattered clothes, he is back in-country, lying at the fringe of the jungle, awash in sounds, neat cast up from furnace earth, cutting through fatigues and the heavy canvas and steel toes of the boots, into skin, to pool on muscles held taut, twitching at the first heard whoop of chopper blades or stirring of branches and flora in still summer air which hangs, a shroud. Sun rises slowly, bathing the obelisk in a faint peach glow, he rolls, crushing the fading, wrinkled photo of three boys lost, from a different world, standing in beer soaked mirth, leaning on rifles. One night, trees oozed forth shadows, black angels, and his hand resting in a pool of blood and viscera with whom he had roamed the bars of Saigon and Bangkok, invincible knights before their armor turned to rust.