War Eats Away at the Spirit

… The frayed and gritty edges of everyone’s world were being worried away by neighbors you’d never noticed until the air spilled over with the tragedy of their loss. The war had taken them or their children; killed them, lost them, torn off body parts, shipped them back brain-fried….

… Tales fell from hearts in heavy, wet tones of grief and confusion….

… Even when rare moments of relative calm and clarity crept briefly through our days, they crawled in with head hanging through that most familiar of all tunnels, our sense of loss. Each new friend seemed only to step in and announce himself with his last breath. Why hadn’t we loved him earlier when there had been more time?

That overriding sense of loss was the dismal cloud through which you viewed the world. Dreading life’s relentless advance, but knowing your locks could never keep it out….

… As the late 60’s gave in and died, and I trudged through my first year as an art student in college, even the old folks were growing up. Their World War II glories clouded over. Someone had shot the president, his brother, and a great civil rights leader, dragging us all out of our warm, snuggly innocence.

People seemed infested by life, burdened by the stifling weight of it, until we could only force shallow, labored breaths. Each new day was just an old one playing through again, a dust-laden August, a storm always riding right on top of you that never quite cut loose. It settled into your joints until they grew achy, too heavy to lift; tarring all hearts with a dark, heavy plaque. Days stuck together as walking and breathing grew tedious. Until even my bubbly sister couldn’t offer up a smile without a shadow lurking inside it. We trudged through life as our mighty nation killed our sons and broke our buddies, defending itself from skinny barefoot farmers with sticks, in rice swamps somewhere on the other side of existence, where you couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad. Some lost tiny nowhere that hadn’t even existed when you’d been a kid; when the world had been innocent and untainted. Back when Father Knew Best, Beaver’s mom fed his dad all the answers, and Annie Oakley never had to shoot to kill….

  • From “Entertaining Naked People”
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