Soldiers march in the space between buildings
between the rows of bodies broken in the road.
Mixed into the scene, the loose limbs
lying in red pools, men crying or dying,
women screaming in the distance,
the tiny forms of children long dead or longer fled,
there is the sound of laughter.
In all of the fear, rage, pain there is a fellow happy.
A buddha? A saint? He is a man in army fatigues,
a former sergeant, stripped of his insignia.
The space where the patch was ripped from him
is still cleaner, brighter
than the rest of his uniform.
How does one get demoted in the midst of action?
Who would dare? I imagine the rank is
on the road somewhere, in a muddy ditch, lost.
Only his eyes do not laugh. They dart.
He strides fast, speed and terror, anger and joy together.
Somehow, in the killing, he has acquired blood to his elbows.
With chuckling that trembles his lips, his chest,
he is immune to the sorrows of others,
oblivious to the bewildered stares of his comrades.
No one sides with him. And he is with no one.
He is, instead, the driving force, the killer. He needs no other.
When I feigned death, I did not imagine this.
Did not foresee anyone with weapons today
although we were warned the night before.
Did not imagine that tears could run out,
that I could rest on a wooden beam, hidden
between the floor and ceiling below
and cry in silence until there was no more.
Did not imagine someone could see this street,
do this to a village, and yet find humor.
Is this how it is? I am struck with unbelieving
except for this fellow. He is so real, so his own,
like a visitor from a more-real reality,
a secret land underlying the veneer of civilization.
Perhaps he is the guide to survival.
So I thought, it must be.
But I remained, hiding, knife in hand
taken from my fallen father.
Below, the laughing man's friends spread out to follow the cries of women,
to peer into houses, to stoop and pick up fallen objects,
a bloody wallet, a photograph, a coin.
The laughter fades but the real man remains.
For a moment, his back is turned, all alone,
abandoned by his comrades,
who hate him, and I
emerge. My foot swings down from the beam.
He scratches his throat,
puts a hand into his pocket,
stares down the broken boulevard.
He does not hear me.
He does not listen for my single footstep
and so I imitate him
with all my speed and strength.