After the Battle of Berlin
Not your wedding day, not the day your son
was born. What you remember cracked old man
is the day your book closed and you were done.
Cocky little belly gunner could stand
the storm of metal embers as you fell
into burning sky. No man's boy killed
hope with his trembling gun. Not yet in hell,
you were winter marched four hundred miles. Will-
winnowed wheat from smashed glass to eat. You were
fragile, sharp ribs under thin skin, hip bones
like wings. Behind razor wire, you endured
the tedium of slow starvation. Thrown
scraps for food-one guard, you said, gave
you bits of bread and showed pictures of his
little girl. Hollow men were digging graves
when sad soldiers came to set you loose. This
and other nightmares let tired men to
mistake death for restitution. We can
kill all the keepers here, they said, for you.
And then, the after of before began.
Blank faced boys did not refuse the offer.
So your wife weeps bile. Your children are flayed.
My poor child, so quickly lost. The daughter's
father looked at you. Then you looked away.