The Man With His Back To The Room
At War [An Investigation]
In times of peace the sons will bury their fathers.
In times of war fathers bury their sons.
A young boy has rummaged for scraps of wood & nailed them
to approximate the shape of an AK 47 automatic rifle.
His (soon-to-be army issue) web-belt,
a single string he’s slung across his back,
will have to do (as the love song says)
until the real thing comes along.
There’s a farmer wandering the roads of Rwanda with four bent scythes stretched across his back:
Death in an old disguise?
Maybe just another scavenger plying his trade?
Cahoots & chortling recruits parade / a pole / they’ve strung with the heads, hearts & testicles of the fallen.
As the maimed try to rise they flail & collide & it’s then the Minotaur comes, sniffs the air & finding blood, feasts on the remains:
no bodies left to rot, no bones to store. No relics to hang on your slim altars.
The photographers that survive are always suspect:
“Where were you when he was shot?” “Where were you when the
tanks rolled in?”
“Where were you when she was shattered by the mines?”
“ Where . . .?”
“Where – Indeed.”
Here. In the trench. In the trench we’ve scooped from sand & broken plates,
where we’ve been trapped in a rain of blood & shredded skin & once a leg & even arms & when we can,
we run with the stench & the stuff that clings & my film & . . .
If not me than who?
Who will bury this desiccated corpse / already a meal for the buzzards that hover here?
The joke that passes says, “If you steal from these well-meaning janitors you will be the first to be swept up in your next life.”
I’m inclined to pass & walk away . . . & yet,
why not these birds? I mean . . .
In the end / there is always / memory
The red color of the flag that hangs on death’s wagon or drapes the box where Jamie sleeps
is the last your country-men & women will ever know of the blood that was spilled here.
History is packed with irony & contradiction. Don’t expect sustenance. Rather, a snack to oblige & send you blithely on you way.
The cabinet is empty / There’s nothing left to claim.
Each drop that falls in the attendant bucket anticipates another soldier down.
There are always more buckets & more bodies to be tossed.
& if it’s one drop at a time /
one drop at a time it shall be.
So, it is said, by the shaman & the priests
who relish the last corpse / as if it were truly the body of hope
brought here to be resurrected
CCCB (Catalunya Cultural Center Barcelona) September 2004