the holes were made in a living person
whose prosthetic left leg was hidden
wounded men who returned to Iraq
women in elaborate headdress
weapons at their side
crush skulls flat as pancakes
a more grisly interpretation
driven into their heads
to help achieve psychological closure
they all walked under their own power
bodies were arranged neatly
five amputees and one blinded soldier
their night terrors stopped after they went
by blunt-force trauma
the amount of developmental growth and closure was phenomenal
two round holes in the soldier’s cranium
as if they were old friends
it was a trade-off
where they were maimed
to honor fallen comrades
soldiers have often returned to old battlefields
treated with a compound of mercury
brittle bones of a person long dead would shatter like glass
some victims had been heated, baked not burned
clapped on their backs and welcomed
to exorcise persistent demons
Ur is protected within the perimeter of an air base
places many of them left while unconscious or in agony
the biggest thing in the world is the silence
we’re getting ready to turn off the lights
wear your wounds like badges
not dosed with poison
a war is still in progress
it’s almost like mass murder and hard for us to understand
the overburden of earth
All lines above, including the title, were taken verbatim from the following two news stories:
- John Noble Wilford, “At Ur, Ritual Deaths That Were Anything but Serene,” New York Times, October 26, 2009
- Rod Nordland, “Wounded Soldiers Return to Iraq, Seeking Solace,” New York Times, October 14, 2009
Feel free to suggest alternate arrangements of lines in the comments.
6 Replies to “The practice of human sacrifice”
Love the last two lines: “…hard for us to understand the overburden of earth”, something I’ve been thinking about as leaves try to bury us, again, maybe this year doing a little better job of it than last year. Raking almost seems like a death rattle.
As far as this notion of a serene death by poison — is there any such thing? I doubt it. Not that I want to choose, but I’d rather a lights out knock to the head any day. I don’t think I can bear to read about the present day living dead. I’ve just read a horrible tract, “Two Arms and a Head”, a long, angry suicide note.
Good point. I think a knock on the head would be much less painful than death by poison. Glad you like the combination of those last two lines. I am not completely satisfied with the way this piece came together, but I did like the ending.
This is fascinating and wonderful, Dave.
Oh, thanks. My materal grandfather always used to talk about Ur of the Chaldees when the subject of archaeology came up. The original discovery happened when he was a boy and made quite an impression on him, confirming as it did at least one semi-mythic reference out of the Bible.
This is well done. It’s a fascinating way to create a poem. The horrors of war. :(
Glad you thought so. Thanks for commenting.