Lies After the War

Lies After the War

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We went to Bull Run, or was it Manassas,
one of those, past Battlefield Ford, past
Glory Days bar in the strip mall, or
was it before the mall was built, or

was it after the mall was abandoned.
I was grizzled with age, I was
twenty one, at the small beige
visitor center. I remember it without

sound. They had a machine there that
sucked up sound. It was mostly made
of hollows, blanks, lack, and also
plastic. It came with a smaller version

of itself, whose job was to suck
the sound of the larger sound-
sucker. It did its work. It was about
the size of a foot. Either run that,

or the place would be filled with ordinary
sounds, squirrels twitching their tails,
chattering, one to another in their ceaseless
brag about acorn-hordes. They couldn’t risk

the sound of dirt, suffocated under the sewn
sod, or the possibility of rustling leaves.
This is not the grass where it happened,
not the starved pines. These clouds have

shifted. Never do they look like hacked
arms, heaped corpses. We lay in the sound-
empty field under the cloud constellation
of Virginia. Look up: that one’s a crutch,

that one’s a stump, that one’s a burning
town, and the yellow tendrils of gangrene.
The air turned to ether. The ether was
painless, it was all painless, I swear.

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