War dead fell in patterns around craters, and
will long enrich the battlefield. Some forever
will inhabit the soil. Survivors, like shadows,
return to circle the lush grass; argue possible
versions of their own history. Since victory,
I offer my shame at living; I offer atonement
as demanded by our leaders; I offer up partisan
fantasies couched with propaganda; I offer to
repay their whole truth and nothing but the truth.
We survivors seek narcosis as our final expiation.
Leaders award purple hearts posthumously, then
for many decades will seal their strategies in vaults.
General Grant completed his memoirs at his death.
What is villainy in war? A debt that must be paid.
Among our ruins, what is valor? Another debt.
Mere presences in passing time that is not history?
Mere pause, bronze remembrances? lest our daughters
demand profundities on stone? Demand fathers home?