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Ardennes

by Sarah Estes Graham


Night, a woolen blanket
of shallow bogs and dense fingered woods.
Belgium flattens to the West
a small rivulet of song.

The Meuse valley was always
a narrow pass to a darker forest,
               her slender strangled neck.

               Kiss the air and bury your rings

On watch,
the sentries smoke
blotting the smell of latrines.

Soldiers in puddle boots
and the beautiful named guns—
Cupola, Collar bone.

Shelling went one per minute all night.
The face of your mother in the fog
meant it had gone badly.

Smiling, ghostlike,
you were already half dead.

                        *               

Grandfather and his brother
cock their turtle helmets to one side
a suicidal cigarette at the corner of his mouth.

Two survivors grimace toward a future sky
where one will hang himself
over the mouth of a barn.

No one knows if it was the war
or the plodding walk of smaller horrors
that killed him. The lush acres of dirt,
grief’s wrenched swath of back.

Life of rain and furrowed trenches
the slow groan of a rusting wheelbarrow
rolling the year-heavy ground.

 

Sarah Estes Graham has studied theology and poetry at Harvard Divinity School, and will soon complete her MFA at the University of Virginia. She is currently at work on her first book, "Fall Gently to the River." (12/2006)


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