Cold Comfort

Mark Edmund Doten

Bush at War: The Sea

We listened for news. There would be little news, even in success the battles kept secret. We watched on TV as maps of the world changed colors. We wondered what it meant. Our fathers worked in the factory, everyone was doing their part. We played cowboys and Indians under the sycamore trees, we swam in the river, we posted stickers and opened cans of stew. It couldn’t be this way forever, we thought, and yet it could. But we were safe from our enemies, we were safe on our island, while behind abundant walls, on the island’s other side, prisoners huddled together for warmth, they slept on the ground under frozen gusts, we imagined, head propped on hand. We wished they’d die. We wished a sickness would sweep their side, a sickness perhaps not caused by the Authority, but a sickness that would carry them away to the last man. The Authority would do their best to save them, they would spare no effort, they would fail. The guards would not succumb, they would have different constitutions, of course. The guards would watch with a piercing sympathy and at the prisoners’ last moments comfort them, rolling up sleeves on their pale uniforms, pressing hands to the foreheads of the afflicted, whispering of the painlessness of death, of the gleaming boats that would carry their bodies far out to sea. Wrapped in white sheets the bodies would plunge into water. They would sink past sharks, past seals and rays and creatures unknown to us on land, they would drift miles down into seaweed whose fronds would wrap them, rolling their bodies as they fell, unwinding the sheets, so that naked, limbs flung outward, eyes flashing up at the last decaying point of light, they would sway among the wreckage of ships lost centuries ago, bodies nestling against deck and bulwark, windlass, tiller and mast.

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12.3 (Spring 2008)   The 2River View AuthorsPoemsPDFArchives2River