Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Burying the War Dead

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Burying the War Dead

Article excerpt

Being wearied with burying,

he came to his house and cast himself down

by the wall and slept.

- Tobias 2:10

One day, someone who did not soldier

will name this war.

Annalists will estimate the dead,

irrational numbers

recorded for historians to argue.

Now, I tidy the battlefield.

I bury both friend and foe.

Some have torn at their clothes

in vain attempts to tend wounds.

Some pose awkward, positions

gruesome as the limbs of a Gallows Elm.

Some nestle like babies asleep,

forever awaiting a mother's waking touch.

Once, I squatted,

staring at a dead youth,

wondering if he ever kissed a girl.

I remember this one skull,

a moustache still attached,

how it must have tickled

the cheek of his daughter.

How can I describe the smell

no flower can triumph over,

how it clings to my clothes,

my hands as I try to eat

mid-day rations meant for others?

The armies advance/retreat

like a prodigal streak of lightening,

so I bury bodies only arm-deep. …

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