The man and woman are unaware of the soldiers as they sit on the banks of a favorite stream, dangling fingers in the water. Goggle eyes paint them green. Hidden by trees, yet only feet away, the intruders can see everything: the woman’s hair, the man’s beard, her lips, his eyes—and yet see nothing—miss the lives touching, each watching out for the other. The soldiers slip away, their presence undetected, leaving nothing but a spectral and fluorescent stain.
The television draws an invisible veil across the scenes of carnage. The television can’t smell the smoke or the scorched flesh. Thousands of miles away, spectators in their homes know that the worst that can happen is a temporary loss of appetite. There’s no busted walls, no babies melting in their beds; the bomb drops are embroidered instead with something called “enemy combatants.” Our man on the spot brags into his microphone. The background is blurred, with silent mouths and eyes just out of sight.
A body cannot go back, because what’s done is done. Go hobble on one leg, because the memory of two won’t support you. It’s was a barbarous amputation, agreed. Femoral blood sprayed all over your uniform and my tense hands. You still can’t forgive the stench. Some situations just don’t make for cozy hospital beds, and a blade white hot in flame can be all the doctors on the planet.
I had to sever a part to save the whole. No lulling the severity, the risk, of the operation. Your teeth ground with the terror of truth. A mind may wander, but a body is only ever in the moment. You’re being fitted with a prosthetic; go and see how the future likes it.
John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. He has recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review, and Big Muddy Review, with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.