The After Death
His escape from life was merely a shift in his seat. A shadow he didn’t have time to turn toward. The terror of his death was all mine.
War is ugly. I won’t spare you the harsh details of his fettle. A steam hose was used to remove him from his turret. I found a single organ intact – the gunner’s young heart.
It lay afloat in a red brook that had begun to coagulate on the hot ground. His remains a collection of pale bits of bone clinging to fragments of flesh. The sun shining in a pink sky.
I bound his heart in burlap. Carried it secured at my hip until dusk when the sky was muted violet and the sound of overhead bombers had ceased.
I envy Death who only deals with souls. Today, I surfaced from a mine field with a soldier’s torn leg and booted foot. The sun in clouds. Left behind parts are my business.
When I’m granted a rebirth of my choosing, I pick the gunner to render whole. Except for his heart, I had to abandon most of his remains. It’s a darkness even I find hard to bear.
I carve the gunner from eternity’s sustaining confine. We emerge from darkness into light. I present him with his heart and he’s made whole. I give him lavender to crush the stench of death and advise him on his obscure nature. Unlike the others, he now sees. The war’s horrors are eclipsed by his youthful joy. I’m pleased with this choice.
How bright the sun! My heart so full! Oh, what my eyes have seen! How can this be? I mustn’t mystify myself with thinking, what’s to figure out? I’m alive! I stretch out my hands, touch the scoring on my palms—hatch marks of life. Mother, do you still wait? Death’s source restored me. I know now what I must do. I’ll reveal this gorge in my chest like an admired medal. I’ll howl aloud against all war, then someday I can die once more.
Eve Castle writes poetry and short stories. Her poems have been published in Illya’s Honey, Barbaric Yawp, Bright Stars, An Organic Tanka Anthology and online at Literary Juice and Gravel Magazine. She’s been a member of Gabe’s Poets, a Dallas-based poetry writing group, since 2009. She’s hoping to become a full-time writer by 2022. You can find her on Twitter @Eve_Castle.