Luke Imagine: Army
Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war or does
war make monsters?
Do you think he ever came back?
He’s here, he’s here in your bed and he’s here in your arms,
You think there’s still a part of him out there, that
there’s a piece of his smile lost in the mud somewhere in the trenches, that
there’s a piece of his laugh that the wind stole away the moment he stepped on
that plane when he said he had to go away.
You think there’s a piece of him that’s dead, even when you
hear his heart beating next to yours.
Who killed him?
Because the boy that came back isn’t the same boy that left;
there’s something gone in his eyes even when he looks at you; a corpse trying
to remember how to live again.
But you can’t bring back the dead, you’re learning; you
can’t bring back the dead, he knows a little too well.
No, NO please, no –
He can’t sleep and the alarm clock sounds too much like a
Reload – click – aim – hold your breath – now fire –
He can’t do it.
You feel the way he trembles when he holds your hand again
like it would before he’s about to pull the trigger, you see the way his skin
is clawed red like it would be when he’s trying to pump back life into a
comrade that’s already gone –
You hear the prayers he whispers and he’s not one for
religion but he’s cloaked in death and wants to remember what light feels like
Forgive me Father, for
I have sinned –
Forgive her Father, for she loves me –
He’s chipped in every sense of the word; the fracture in his
eyes never catching the light so that it’s always black with the nightmares of
a man who’s drowned in all he’s seen instead of the blue of the boy who used to
Who killed him?
Who killed the boy that you loved, who killed him and
brought back these pieces of him; a telegram in shallow breaths and scarred
skin that says I’m sorry he didn’t come
back, a coffin-corpse with tears that says he didn’t make it.
I did, he whispers; head bowed and knees bent on the other side of
the bed, thin stitching of cotton sheets like the grate between you and him in
a confessional. I killed him.
He killed the boy he was the moment he put on that helmet,
the moment he stepped on that plane, strapped to the seat with tens of other
dead boys marching to their graves like the obedient corpses they were; he
killed the boy the moment he held the metal in his hand and pulled the trigger
on someone else.
I lost count –
He’s lost count of all the lives he took, of all the lives
he’s saw taken; he’s lost count of all the bodies littered in the dirt, he’s
lost count of all the shells next to his boots.
I’m sorry –
He’s sorry for all the wide eyes he’s put a bullet through,
he’s sorry for all the people who have to pull the bodies away, he’s sorry for
all the shallow graves and tears of grief he’s made; he’s sorry for being the
bringer of death to someone who only wanted to live better, he’s sorry for
being both the killer and the dead.
He’s sorry for the crimes he’s caused, for the sins he’s
committed – the confessional has become his prison because they won’t lock him
up, so he does it himself in the hollow rooms of a church, praying for the
sentence he so deserves in the pews with no one listening but the stone statues
who look at him like a disappointment.
Thou shalt not kill –
I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I’m sorry –
He sees big brown eyes of someone who’s lost a father and
gaping red holes in beating flesh; he hears screams of help and he hears the click as he reloads for another round;
he feels the warmth of a stranger’s kindness and the kick of the gun when he
It’s almost funny, Luke thinks, how justice is nothing but
crime disguised with a flag.
It’s almost sad, Luke thinks, how help was such a twisted word; how he could believe it was shiny
black guns and bullets in bodies, how he wondered why they were still screaming
the word – help help help – when
that’s exactly what he was trying to do with his cheek pressed up to the barrel
of the rifle.
He wonders how he got so twisted,
he wonders how he ever bought the bullcrap
they were feeding him about justice and
peace and help.
They don’t tell him that justice
would be dozens of corpses piled up on top of each other, flies buzzing and
reeking of decomposing skin, retching in the bushes when he recognizes one,
heaving when he thinks of the people they used to be before he killed them.
They don’t tell him that peace
meant clean circles through skin and his friends falling around him,
mid-laugh cut short through the throat; that peace was the sound of shouted commands and bloody masses of limbs of
someone wearing the same uniform as him.
They don’t tell him that help
was a wailing child on a lonely street, running away from him when they see
him on patrol; that help was a widow
praying for death next to the remains of a corpse that he created.
It’s for your country,
they tell him. It is your duty.
Luke can’t remember hearing the word morality anywhere, come to think of it.
They made it sound so high and grand, spinning out stories of duty
and honor and pride –
It didn’t feel so grand when he’s in the infirmary, unable
to sleep with the sounds of groaning men all around him – though it’s worse
when it’s silent – praying for death, wishing for their loved ones,
bloodstained photographs of beautiful girls and mud-smeared cheeks with missing
limbs, death so heavy in the air that he chokes from it.
And is it honor when he’s kneeling next to his friend, face
spotted with blistered and bleeding skin, breaths shallow and legs blown off,
saying tell my girl I love her as he
hands you an envelope with his fingerprints in red all over it, violent tremors
before he goes all still, eyes glassy as they look up at him, waiting for his
How is there pride in
his dirty blonde hair flecked with blood that isn’t his own, how is there pride in the families he has ruined, how
is there pride in his intrusion of a
place that wasn’t his home?
How is there pride in
bullet-hole dreams and fingers that can’t stop shaking, how is there honor in the way he screams at night and
the sobs that you hear when he’s in the shower?
He can’t wash the red from his skin so he claws at it
instead and it’s all he sees; he can’t get the wails and the cries out of his
head so he screams to block it out instead and this is all he can do; creating
the horror and the destruction with the gun in his hands and recreating it
while you try to sleep in bed.
He pounds at the tiles of the shower until his skin is as
chipped as he feels and he watches his tears and his blood wash down the drain
and he wishes his sins could do the same, but they’re too big to go through and
forgiveness wasn’t as limitless as the cool water that rains down on his skin.
You don’t want to be afraid of him and the way he roars when
he thinks you’re not at home, but you’re afraid for him in the way his eyes are more red than blue.
It’s coated in his vision now, it’s embedded in his skin;
his heart pounding in red blood and bullet beats, his head echoing in his
picture of you stained in scarlet and screams of children and women that are
darker than a void.
His fingers only know point/aim/trigger/fire/reload/repeat
and he’s afraid of them touching your paper skin and he doesn’t want your
body to be the warzone that his mind is so lost in.
He is ruination and ruined and he is living while being
He’s lost somewhere in the trenches, his fingerprints on the
trigger and his blood in the dirt; still reliving it every day and every night,
still dreaming of coming back when he’s right next to you.
He doesn’t know how.
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