Thursday, April 22, 2010


by S. Brady Tucker

The Dead:

When he is alone, in an
easy chair, say, or in the dark,
under a raspberry jam night sky, sitting
on his oak deck, he hears them:

he hears them whisper their jealousy—
just that. They whisper their hatred of his life
and the world simmers with a heat
and guilt terrible to see and he is not

alone for a moment, but awfully
surrounded by them again, and he
knows what they mean when they
say those words, and his blood red and blue

from heart to arteries to veins
beats like syrup and he is there
again, his knee in the sand, his tan
desert combat boots dug in as if

rooted there, and he hears again the
sound of them whispering with the voices
of bullets popping and whirring and
thumping flesh, and he hears them

roar their fear so loud and awful
and terrible that his weapon falls to his
feet and his gloved hands hold bloody
chunks of sand against his ears

to drown out the sound of it all. When
it is over, he shakes the sand out of
his baby fine blonde hair, and he picks
up his discarded weapon. To the east, bombs

and bullets still purr as a war rends everything
he knows and every thing he ever will know.
When he is alone, they remind him:
“You will never be alone. Never.”

The Alive:

When there are other people around,
he knows that some of it isn’t
real—like how the feel of Erik’s
blood sticking to the black metal

of his weapon was real, or how the
oily smoke of Erik’s blood burned his
nostrils when his weapon overheated was real.
Real real. And he knows this is wrong

and he is as afraid of getting help
as he was in that desert when everything
went wrong in the world. So he pretends
that they are not a fiction, that they exist

like Erik’s severed foot existed still tied
into its boot—how it felt to pick up that
foot and place it in a pile of other things that
were Erik’s, and sometimes it even works for him.

Do you see why he thinks of the world like
proverbs in fortune cookies? “Burning flesh is
the smell of success!” or, “You are alive for some
obscure reason.” He smiles sometimes when

he thinks like this, but he knows it isn’t funny.
He knows that they will continue to whisper to
him for the rest of his life, and that he is doomed
and lost and cursed. No one will ever laugh with him

and no one will ever know the cowardice he is capable
of, and how Erik would be alive if it weren’t for him.
But know this: somehow, one night, he will know five minutes
of peace—just five minutes of life, as it should have been.

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