Casuality

image

Photographer: Dario Torres

There is a moment immediately after an action

When silence is deaf to itself:

There is only the smell of discharged weapons,

And smoke. Fractured air reverberating

From concussion; the hammering of fire.

 

Hands slowly disconnect their grasp

From stock and pistol grip.

Sometimes at the second of release

The shaking starts, butterfly wings

In the wind.

 

But within a minute, perhaps less, quiet rushes

Like a wave to engulf ears, cheeks, lips, the dirt

That is dressed with cartridge cases, belt-link and

– pray God not me – scarlet flowers that resolve

Into dressing pads.

 

Until like the release of a dam, from trickle to flood,

Come the screaming assault, a drenching in oily whimpering

Signaling men trapped in agony with no merciful release.

 

And so it goes even after the years have drawn tight

And the memories have been ingested.

 

One day a man meets a woman. They duel consensually

Drawing blood lightly with humour and intrigue.

But both are wary, carrying lessons from earlier actions

 

With dressing held ready to staunch the flow.

Copyright © 1994 – Jerry Beale

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE:
I wanted to describe how difficult it had been for me to allow anyone close to me after my experiences as a soldier. I felt dirty and damaged, and certain that anybody who looked into my soul would somehow be harmed.

Bird

image

Artist: Hua Tunan
Image used with permission

Morning time. So I leave my door, descending the four steps

Precariously

 

My feet are bare upon the grass. Its wetness is almost sexual

If not for the cold.

 

A spider’s web catches the silver promise of light within a single drop

Of moiisture. Such a perfect fragile jewel;

 

It’s the sound I catch first. An impatient fluttering, daubed with

High-pitched peeps of distress.

 

Step over the log, my feet finding primordial satisfaction in its

Careless roughness.

 

The chicken wire lies in a tired bundle, threaded through with grass

And a single impatient thistle.

 

There. In the middle of the roll. A tiny brown speckled form. A thrush

Trapped within the deaf wire.

 

Exhausted.

 

My feet stop. With each step closer, the bird becomes more animated

Beating its tiny form against the wire.

 

How can I say ‘I mean to help you, to tear back the walls that encircle you,

To give you back your universe?  For we are so deeply

 

Alien to each other.

 

I am torn. I cannot leave this other life. Yet I cannot help. Energy drains

From me. I am now unnecessary.

 

A watcher only.

 

The bird is still. Its chest heaves once. A wing slips and hangs loose,

Askew.

 

It’s quiet.

 

I begin to hate the wire.

Copyright © 2002 – Jerry Beale

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE:
This poem describes an actual event which had a profound effect on me. It emphasised how separate we have become from the simplicity of nature.