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July 2017, vol 13 no 2

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Autumn Noelle Hall

War Stories

Through my closed office door, I can hear machine gun fire in the living room. Hunkered down in cabin dark, my husband and his brother, both retired enlisted men, sit side-by-side on the sofa, vicariously experiencing World War II.

I hear an urgent “Go, go, go!” from the screen, and suddenly recall a phone call from another lifetime. To an old friend who no longer speaks to me. Picked up unexpectedly by her normally reticent husband.

his eyes
like those of the antelope
he hunted
skulls hung hollow
on a fireplace wall

I’ve no idea how we got to the story of his Uncle, who fought on Iwo Jima. But it didn’t take long. I saw it all plainly through his soft, sad retelling: the young soldier, battle-worn and hungry, seeking a safe spot in the tall island grass in which to eat his rations.

stretching tired arms
above and behind him
he leans
his weight on his hand crushing
his enemy’s decaying face

I ache for them all – the dead Japanese, the horrified warrior, the hushed husband, and most of all my friend, when I learn later that she’s never heard him recount this before. She is furious with me for being on the listening end of the phone that day; and furious with him for answering.

the way a shared story
or destroys us –
all I need to know of war