And the Rest is Silence

by June Freeman Baswell

 

Your world is a line drawn in water.
Attack and fall back.
Fire and cease fire.
Hours of boredom relieved by moments of sheer terror,
When all you want really is to be clean, to be home, to have food
That ashes have never touched.

Two eggs yesterday snatched from a smoldering chicken coop
Near a ruined house in a ruined valley.
You know now how foxes feel,
Foxes that you flushed by accident
In hills like these when you were looking for rabbits.

You live as the fox does,
Ears pricked as you venture out of your den,
Alert and ever fearful
Ready to plunge in an instant for safety.

The eggs were ambrosia
Boiled in a tin can over a cautious fire.
Brown and smooth like your face once was–Not a crack
And all around them the shattered walls,
The tables and chairs blown out by the blast,
Still smoldering and falling to ash.

Eggs must be broken to make an omelet,
your daddy used to say.
Some eggs must be broken.
Not this one, though, not today, not this one.

They call you Pappy here, the shirttail kids in your platoon.
They call you Pappy like you’re someone hard; someone old and wise.
But you know you’re not any older than they are inside.
Not any tougher than fox fur
Or an eggshell.
The thunder can crush you.
The smoke flush you out
The fire claim you.

The words you could write home,
Tunis, Anzio, Monte Cassino,
the mud and the heat and the cold
and the way a man looks bewildered
To the sky when he’s been blown apart.
You could tell how it all feels like a game of chance
With the deck stacked against you,
But you won’t.

You’ll keep your silence, like a fox
Or an egg.

Someday, if you make it home,
You’ll tell your daughter about the eggs you stole
And how pretty Maria was
And how the thin little boys with curly hair loved chocolate.

You’ll tell her, too,
About the German and how you looked more German than he did
With his dark hair and his dark eyes.
The Schnapps he shared burned going down

 


June Freeman Baswell attended Furman University in Greenville, SC, where she majored in art and fell in love with William Shakespeare. Over the years, he has been joined by many other writers, but never supplanted. Currently Ms. Baswell is a contributing member of Thema, a literary journal which has published three of her short stories. Born in South Carolina, she lives and works there, which probably explains everything.

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