Death March

Bataan, 1942

Small, dark pucker in the skin at the end of his left
pinky finger— Growing up, I never knew the details,

did not associate that cleft shaped like a dry
asterisk in my father’s hand with the long

march in April: hundreds of men in the aftermath
of Pearl Harbor, stumbling toward prisoner-of-war

camps, prodded by bayonets. He never said anything
about how he came to be singled out, how some

blade must have sang high before plucking the nail
out of his flesh; how the pulp fresh in the scar

made him swoon. All wars, I remember him saying,
are most of all the deprivation of spirit. Animals

roamed the countryside, unloosed from the plow, evicted
from barns; or caught, they dripped and turned on a spit.

Through fitful sleep the prisoners heard roosters,
their raucous crow orange in the breaking dawn.


In response to Via Negativa: Routine.

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