Give Me Tomorrow
"They were in their 20s but might have been 100. In answer to my idiot question, 'If I were God, what would you want for Christmas,' one tried to answer and failed until, looking into that unpromising sky, he said, 'Give me tomorrow.'" - David Douglas Duncan, about American soldiers in the Korean War.
Their documents insist: eighteen,
But soldiers are ageless.
Once introduced to death, they drop
their ages like quarters
into parking meters, into streets,
into machines that tumble clothes,
rinsing evidence away.
Dirt smudges their faces
the way blood soaks into the ground
and remains, a darker dirt
glistening in the pale light of moon.
Their eyes burn
with a bright darkness,
in the voids of their faces.
Sometimes they hear nothing
but a single high, keening note
which tries to drown out memory.
When they hear screaming,
they clamp their lips shut.
They try to become stones.
Like fireworks, fear blossoms
so often they hardly notice
after the first deafening booms.
Smoke spiders crawl after them
into ditches, into dreams.
On orders, they go forward,
they retreat. They carry
letters folded over their hearts,
maps to an innocent country.
forced them to remember hell,
to recognize hell, to believe
in hell, the only thing they ask for
is tomorrow. The sky
promises nothing, yet they pray:
Give me tomorrow.