The Language of War
War takes things. And as he lay there, a morphine drip trickling quickly
in his arm, they told him "We took your leg,"
He asked "took it where?" As if it had been escorted to a spring dance, or
slid on tuxedo pants and stepped into Ferragamos for box seats at the opera.
As if they took it to be shaven and would return it
to him with clean socks and shoes spit shined.
It was black and bloodied, when he saw it last, felt it last.
But legs aren't taken in war, they are amputated—sawed from the bone
and muscles. Charred or crushed they are wrapped
in heavy dressing and disposed of, without honor guard or military
salute. His remaining limb remembers the loss. He reaches for it each night
clawing at his sheets trying to scratch the itch that is not there. He remembers
how as a pair, they kicked soccer balls in his neighborhood park.
Sprinted 11.08 at high school track meets.
Stood next to his brother at his wedding—weak and unsteady from Olde Grand Dad
at the bachelor party the night before. War takes things.
War loses things. And when they told him he lost his eyes, their words fell on his ear
Like his nana's funeral dirge. Lost eyes—as if those hazel organs went for a walk one
day and took a wrong turn along some winding dusty trail. As if with a
map they could hitchhike back, be home for supper. As if he could offer a
reward for their safe return. They were not somewhere huddled cold and hungry with
dreams of a warm fireplace or Mom's tomato soup. They were blown out from a roadside
mortar attack. Shrapnel tore through them, shredding pupil and iris and eyeball. He can't
believe they are gone. "I can still see the bright lights," he shouts. War loses things.
War receives things. They told his parents he received massive internal injuries. As if it
was some blessed event, like standing in line at a graduation, donning cap and gown, to
accept a degree; as if he a new father paces the delivery room waiting to receive the news
of a son. But for the young soldier artillery tore through his worn body armor and
exploded in his chest. Hollow point bullets expand on entry and eat through organs like
acid, gnawing its way through membranes arteries, and veins, diluting blood, liquefying
tissue, and collapsing lungs. He didn't even have time to whisper a final prayer—clotted
blood choked it while still in his throat. He received fatal wounds, and his parents
received dented ID tags and a tightly wrapped flag.