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.
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.
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.
Labels: War and Remembrance