Thursday, September 16, 2010

My day began in the middle of the night when, after emerging from a tall building that consisted only of stairs, landings, windows, and walls, I met a friend in an open grassy area that might have been a cemetery had there been any graves. The friend, a poet with whom I have corresponded for several years but have not yet met in person, was much taller than I have imagined him. We walked together until we came to a rectangular marble slab about three feet wide and five feet long. About two-thirds of the slab was covered by an inset rectangle of the same relative dimensions and composed of a duller blackish-grayish material on which appeared the faded letters of some kind of message or text. I tried, but it was impossible to read. The letters were like willow wisps, curling and descending toward a dark stream. In a high voice, half recitation, half singing, my friend told me he had placed the memorial there himself, and that the work had taken him only a few hours. With his head held high and his eyes gazing off into the distance, he explained that the government would never have acted as quickly, that the matter had been discussed in Congress before and would be countless times again, despite the fact that the issue was already resolved. From this I understood that it was a war memorial — not for any war in particular, but for the ancient destructive fact of war itself. Then, in my mind’s eye, there rose up a cry in script on a recently excavated scroll of thin flexible stone flecked with bits of  fossilized dung and straw, a song of grief long since turned to dust and stars and unearthed bones. I looked up. I saw in my friend’s skull the place where his skin and eyes used to be.

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