Magazine article World Literature Today

After the War

Magazine article World Literature Today

After the War

Article excerpt

History moves darkly and we are small, soft things.

- Kazim Ali

Across the Aegean to Ionian sea, would be

sparse journeying, even with winds slack or

rebelling. And the one-eyed monsters, lovely

nymphs, temptresses, we always knew their

story: Tales made-up long after, to explain

his extended, sorrow-drenched absence,

and the map's mystery - how directionless

were all his wanderings. So why

ten years to cross such slender waters,

his heart and helm carrying him only

from, never toward hearth or harbor his own,

always further from known hills and air and

eyes that want at dusk, like dusk, to settle

on him softly - why each day his traveling farther

away, even as he kept telling every stranger,

any listening ear, that he wants only

to go home?

What was never told: how after the war,

he was heartsick. As a hollow holds

its emptiness.

Seeking for before or, perhaps, forgetfulness.

And grieving for what was now his

forever unblessed -

this fragile frame he'd seen broken and

spoken into utter


Shell-shocked, he wanders across the seas -

then descends

to where his dead reside, together with himself


At every dark crossing, unfathomed silence his

only dissent.

He had never wanted to go to war. When they

came for him, he feigned


Later, he hid in the belly of the wooden horse

he alone had dreamed of, thinking

it alone might

end the rage, exploding skies raining down

on the small soft bodies

of night.

All the while, in the narrow alleyways splintered and

slivered in the dark

I could hear shreds of shredded boy and breath

whose back is bent

under weighty pack single purposed with all pale

means to staunch

blood, stifle pain, till hastily stretchered out - but

he is left

behind amid the debris, shocked and shelled in the


world, every jagged and broken piece viciously

singing -

Not the dead, but the ones who survived -

the sons

whose wounds do not bleed or speak,

and whose weary

feet, at yet another village edge, have

a hard time


So sing to me, O Muse,

of he

who in twists and turns is

driven off course

in dark

combat fatigue endlessly

wandering -

Start where you will

in songs for our time

and my

lost son -


terrible grief to music -

and then

bring him home. …

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