The Seven Last Words


Pater, dimitte illis, quia nesciunt, quid faciunt.

They hadn’t seen the wire, threading the grim
eyelet of the dead soldier’s left boot, so
when he shouted, it was too late, the pin
had pulled, and the incendiary blew.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

But not before he was able to throw
himself onto the I.E.D., sparing
his troop the shrapnel flash, the inferno
that tore his chest like a lover’s raging.

Mulier, ecce filius tuus.

And in the middle of his agony,
he heard his mother’s voice: and there he was,
five again, tumbled tricycle, skinned knee
being wrapped up in tenderness and gauze.

Sitio.

Pulled back, he felt the drought in his mouth salved
by the salt of his own blood, where his jaw
had ruptured, ripped. He felt himself hauled, shoved
across pavement, into the transport’s maw.

Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso.

His brother, lost to another army,
to another war, sat across the way,
squeezed his hand. Real enough, it seemed; quietly
saying, It’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay.

Consummatum est.

And it was. Around him he saw them – crushed,
pounding his chest, weeping, wiping his face –
but all there, saved by his instinctive rush
into the abyss, taking their place.

In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.

And his breathing slowed into an even
skate, his eyes closed, and his spirit rose high,
wings like a dreamed Chagall, through the open
window, past rooftops, into violet sky.


40 comments:

  1. Short link - http://bit.ly/s47lastwords

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  2. Love your modern twist on these last 7 words. Ok, the tricycle and skinned knee got me And "wings like a dreamed Chagall" may be my most favorite line in a poem ever. It just expands the stanza to 3-d for me, a poem on canvas. This is an amazing piece.

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    1. I was about to quote the same exact two parts. This is an amazing write. Really moving.

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  3. Thanks so much for all the kind words, here and on my other networks. Despite the intense images, ultimately the poem is about redemption.

    I also wanted to thank my friend, poet and photographer Stacy Ericson, whose friendly challenge lit the spark for the poem. I went off-tangent, as I always do, hopefully proving that there's value in testing the limits.

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    1. 'value in testing the limits' -- oh holy yes.

      and this is a worthy narrative, threaded with latin to draw us down to the deep place where things pulse with FELT-ness.
      the 'dreamed chagall' line is sharp and soft at once, allowing us respite from the intensity, resolving into the violet sky.
      very much appreciated this.

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  4. This is a tight deep piece to unravel.
    Can be interpreted many ways.
    This is what I see after reading;
    An emotional spiritual walk.
    Feeling someone’s pain, taking
    their place. ( in a spiritual aspect)
    Then releasing/ letting go.

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  5. This has so many layers. The word choices were incredible. Well done.

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  6. I really like this line--so expressive:
    "Pulled back, he felt the drought in his mouth salved
    by the salt of his own blood, where his jaw /
    had ruptured, ripped..."
    I really FEEL the language. Kudos.

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  7. WOW! This really was amazing. I loved the story as well as the imagery!

    -Suze

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  8. This is absolutely spectacular. Haunting, inspired, visceral, and unbelievably beautiful. I am utterly and completely mesmerized.

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  9. I think this poem takes your work to the next level.

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  10. As often as I hear those 7 words, all I can say is this: mea culpable, mea culpable, mea culpable.

    As always, haunting as it is beautiful.
    Btw, Jacob's Ladder is one of my favorites.

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  11. Everyone before me has said everything I might possibly say about this incredible poem, Samuel. Your poetic consistency and power is awesome. Thank you for yet another delightful excursion into pure and thoroughly original poetry.

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  12. Glad to read another on the mark, memorable poem by you, Samuel.

    I've floated away, gazing at a Chagall painting. The feeling lingers along with a mystical perspective, which you have used here to lift us from the dread of suffering, the sorrow of dying and the long nights of mourning.

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  13. Spun as only you can .. bravo

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  14. Excellent multi-layered poem using superb imagery. I wish I knew Latin just to understand the lines that add yet another layer. Thank you for crafting this in time for this solemn day.

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  15. A true hero Samuel. I'm glad he earned his wings. There is too much in this that is emotional, so effective in its imagery and reminds us that war is so dreadful.
    A truly lovely write and, fitting tribute to these brave souls.

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  16. Beautifully written, haunting, wonderful imagery throughout.

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  17. A stunning write! Absolutely over the top. Beautiful!

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  18. dang man...intense...the giving of ones life to save that of others...such a high calling you know...so very emotional man...i hope that one day we find different answers you know....thank you to those that give all...

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  19. Wow. 7 last words, 7 last stanzas, 7 last days -- there is a symmetry to this poem which takes me right to the last stations of the cross and a universe I dared not enter. I could not not read. And then, being ignorant, I had to look up each phrase. That done, I recognized the ancient spell by which magic you held me entranced, and added that to the deeper layers of the voice and images I had never seen before. Bless you! I am putting you on my "must read" list forever.

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  20. Exquisite.

    And I loved the Latin phrases throughout. Very powerful.

    =)

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  21. Wonderfully powerful, this old Vet thanks you, good job!

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  22. I can't read the Latin, but I like your poem, especially the "dreamed Chagall". The details you used made this immediate, and affecting.

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  23. Reading your words with the incantation in between: Father, Father why have you forsaken me... It gave me chills.

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  24. Oh, Sam, what a moving Memorial Day poem. I felt it right inside of me. You made me experience what it was like, the kind of man he was, the pain, the agony, the death. One man - a symbol for so many!

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  25. Of all of your beautiful, amazing and wonderfully written poems, this one is my favorite. Hands down. It is a Major Wow! Whew!

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  26. The realism in your war memorial is surreal. It is similar to my father's story. Exceptional, Sam.

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  27. WOW! Sam, using the last words in Latin...such a powerful write. I'm stunned at how impressively you wove them into the narrative. I think, after this, I've got to take a break for a while.

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  28. Oh Sam, I'm breathless, you have woven such tenderness through the horror of war. Lovingkindness can be found in the most unexpected places.

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  29. gorgeous narrative.

    what it made me think of was how he thought of his mother as soon as it happened, but then we learn that the mother lost a previous son, so OMG!!! poor mother.

    four memorial day senryu

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    1. Anonymous8:58:00 PM

      Great. I like the salt from the blood as a salve and the bicycle skinned knee. You also know about war, ied, etc.
      gardenlilie

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  30. Powerful and moving...a marvelous write!!

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  31. This moved me to tears...an intensely powerful piece indeed!

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  32. So so moving - I felt moved to weep in places and the Latin, Pacem, Pacem ... into a cathedral also ... this is so well-drawn; a life encapsulated as it flashes before a young man's dying eyes ... again, you've outdone yourself Samuel - bravo.

    http://seingrahamsays.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/th_memorial-day/

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  33. The crazy thing is we can't think up anything more horrifying than what really happens. A super powerful portrayal of the gruesomeness of war and daily inequity...at least at time I feel its inequity because i am still alive. Great stuff....hard to swallow.

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  34. I wish I could add something to the above comments because what I want to say is echoed there so I'll just say - AMAZING!

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  35. Tugs at the heart, my father's brother was blown up by a land mine just after WWII in Germany.

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  36. Amazing, wonderful write ~ That moment before death swallows the soul, realization, memories, and finally the unfolding to the unknown ~

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