The ghosts of my birth parents blow into my dreams as so many white sheets torn from the clothesline by gale winds, fly over me, at once angels and vultures carrying off memories created from the clay of surmise and wishful thinking.
I invite their visits, frail branches to which to cling in the storms of growing age, beginnings tenuous anchors to hold against time, knowing the battle cannot be won, but take joy in skirmishes not to be diminished by an ultimate failure I have long come to accept.
My father wanted to take me to buy my first suit, said he knew a tailor who could fashion one perfect for my pending Bar Mitzvah, a nice wool blend, he said.
Mother about threw a fit. “Take him to the department store or even Goodwill, for God’s sake, he’s only going to wear it once.”
My father had learned that some battles are best left unfought, so he compromised and we went to the men’s shop and I wore that sport coat three times before outgrowing it, and donating it to Goodwill.
Here, in these unmown fields where the morning mists gather once stood the ancient chieftain his clan assembled about him staring into the distant trees under the watchful eye of the gods. As the October winds blew down from the hills, they strode forward blades glinting in the midday sun ebbing and flowing until the moon stood poised for its nightly trek and they stood on the precipice of exhaustion counting fall brethren sacrificed to the blade of the claymore for glory of clan and entertainment of gods.
On these tired fields no chieftains stride and the mists no longer wrap the boulders left to mark nameless graves of kin. These are now ill sown fields, lying in the wasteland between chiefs who sit in silent bunkers, clansmen gathered to retell the tales of glory long vanished, to come. In these fields they till the begrudging soil and beg the gods for meager growth. As the moon begins its slow journey skyward they pause to count the craters torn into the rocky soil, and gather the bones of those newly fallen, sacrificed to the wrath of the claymores, the entertainment of the gods.
First Appeared in Main Street Rag, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2000.
Early this morning the sky was pregnant with the rain that would inundate our afternoon, the sun a struggling visitor then, deciding the battle was lost and sliding away behind the clouds. It is afternoon now and our thoughts of the morning have been washed away, the plants no longer thirsty, risk drowning. We live in a world of never enough and too much, and we are allowed to complain about this day, which is the best reason not to.
They come to her in the dark the voices whisper, she hears them from behind half lidded eyes they sound like the children that once ran across the open field chasing the ball, a too slow bird a mortar shell whose fall outpaced them all, left them scattered, shattered, marked by simple wooden crosses that were taken for heat.
She strains to answer them the words thick on her tongue clogging her mouth like a gas soaked rag stuck into the thin neck of a bottle, lit, they explode inside her mind, the shrapnel tearing at her eyes red, only red, the sky seems aflame yet the sun has long since set behind the smoke of the fires.
They hover around her gently touching her cheek like a demented butterfly seeking nectar long dry she caresses the thick scar were her breast once stood proudly, but there is no feeling only numbness of too many bodies strewn on tables, across chairs which are broken to feed the flames which dance away into the snowy night.
She can see their masks hiding sneering lips spitting vitriol for what once was she curses them, faceless her eyes pressed shut by their tiny fingers, kneading the soft dough, pulling it taught, letting it snap back released by the sated mouth of the devil child who runs laughing up the hill chasing a dragonfly into the dawn.
What do you say to those who turn their backs on those broken in battle, or broken at the sight of battle, who were left to clean up the collateral damage, or who were collateral damage, were pierced by IED’s, or shaped charges, who had inadequate armor, or no armor at all, who were left in moldy rooms, were dropped on the street, who don’t want to go back again, and still again, who see clearly with their eyes closed, who cannot find shelter in a maelstrom of thoughts, who did what was asked and wish they hadn’t, who asked for leaders and found only followers, who asked why and were told “just because,” who never came back, or who were left here.
Previously appeared in SNReview, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2007 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008).