Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Death, They Said

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Death, They Said

Article excerpt

So our story begins with a field, an ordinary field

(Of browned grass and grazing cows).

An ordinary field, a blue sky and a small boy

(A boy aged six or seven).

Madeleine said to me:

"What's the use of it? What'll you do if you find her?"

Burning flesh and blackened tar spilling hot into the smoky room.

And I ask myself:

"What's the use of it? We'll all just rot anyway."

In the field we see the boy hovered over

A body-a corpse-and the boy is singing to it.

Pray peace. Fast death.

I think of this corpse and this boy, and the ordinary field

When I pull the lever that stops the tar halfway up the wall.

I see limbs stirred in the mix of drying tar. There are arms and fingers and tailbones

And clumps of hair. There are full skeletons and broken skeletons.

I wonder if there are minds but I

Must save my philosophizing for another time.

A time with more time.

"You know what we came here to do. Do it."

Madeleine grabbed the shovel and put it in my hand.

It was rusted and tarnished and looked like it had been

Buried in the ground for the last century.

My hand was black. I began to dig

As I spit smoke from my mouth. Waist deep in tar

I moved through the room like you'd wade through a thick ocean-one with a current perhaps-

(Oceans are all the same consistency, and none quite like tar).

In the field the boy sang to the corpse

With a blue sky backdrop. The corpse was his mother

And the boy was terribly sad.

The boy sang something like: "you were all I had. You were all I had. You were all I had. …

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