Oswald LeWinter

In the Hospital Behind the Front

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land.
                            —Siegfried Sassoon

No one can knead mud and puddled blood
into a replacement arm, or mold shreds of flesh
and crumbs of bone dripping with marrow,
thick as a veloute, into a leg. The hovering Doctor
only thinks he's God, but God has been discharged,
unfit for war. His angels pasted, stiff as the ground,
on stretchers at a door, big toes tagged, "unidentified."
Death, dressed in ice, recruits at Chosin reservoir.

Water meant life before the sky froze and the stars,
brittle from anti-aircraft fire, turned the firmament
to flakes. None dream of heaven anymore, none feel
that hell's merely a lie like lists of casualties. The songs
extolling bravery reach our ears off-key and weird,
as if sung by a choir of Vampires who suck hope out
of the loud air. The air's a pudding, blood thickened
by cordite. Breathing it feels like death.

In the tent where many wounded wait on cots
for surgeons' expert hands to save enough Marines
to send to Iowa, Brooklyn, San Francisco, or Duluth,
screams so intense none listen anymore. All hope
for specks of pity reeling nurses parcel out among the few
far enough from being bagged to use them well; a sign
that tells us who'll be living in another hour. The dead
are history, pearls cast into standard texts for telegrams.

Oswald LeWinter is a 72 year old American poet living in Lisbon. After a thirty-year-plus hiatus, he is again sending his work to journals. In the sixties and earlier, his work appeared in Shenandoah, Sewanee, Contact, New Mexico Quarterly, Epoch, Hudson Review, Paris Review, Chelsea, the Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Argonaut and elsewhere.

[Tarpaulin Sky can neither confirm nor deny this information, as LeWinter is the original 'international man of mystery.' Click HERE or GOOGLE for details.]