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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.



      Look back.


The cabinet is empty / There’s nothing left to claim.




Each drop that falls in the attendant bucket anticipates another soldier down.


No matter.


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 


or not.


 CCCB (Catalunya Cultural Center Barcelona) September 2004 



Barcelona Diary
It's Mother's Day
By Dawn's Early Light at 120 Miles Per Hour
The Man With His Back To The Room
Intimacies, Prose. Poems and Stories
Homage to a Widow
It's Only TV
Improvisations - Chapbook
After Goya
Improvisations - From Contemporary Music
Mustering What's Left