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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Matthew Caretti

Sweet & Right

After Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est”

Distorted by dirt and blood, the red cross on his helmet now some sort of crippled question mark. Just two years ago, quitting medical school seemed a good idea. He was in love and the mood of the country matched his own. His bride soon bore him a son, and time passing in the mountains was marked only by the seasons. A job at the valley market failed to challenge him, but life was good. He spent no time with regret. His attention had turned to the little boy. His first steps. His first words. And the first signs that something was amiss.

night vigil
looking for a breath
by candlelight

On the day he was to report for duty, the last place he visited was the boy’s grave. A tiny headstone above a wilted patch of grass. Only three years old.

a wind cuts
tiny flags to tatters
lost prayer

The army moved quickly to make him a corpsman. At least, he thought, he wouldn’t have to shoot anyone. But the death at home was followed by more here in this faraway land. These boys also too young, bounding before their time toward the great inevitable.

razor wire
dividing a man
from himself