War is cruel.
Of course, there's so much cruelty in this world.
The people, billions of them, their lives, insignificant
as flies. Some of them, with deceptive comforts, the
fairytale lives of the first world, the struggles of
a date gone wrong, a sulking child, a stained blue dress.
The others; the outcasts, the fallen, the skin stretched tight
across straining ribcage, the cold dripping through makeshift
walls, the dehydration, the sticky tears, hunger beating through
sense like a carnal sin. The lives lived in refugee camps.
War is strange, brings it all together in the most horrible of ways:
the mothers, afraid; the lives, built over years and years, come to mean
Soldier; the throats eager to find a cause, a belief, a reason to live through
simple joys and winding pain; the countries, making sure nobody remembers
what is wrong here, with us and our people - the imagined communities.
The easy route to belonging somewhere
(anywhere), knowing you have validation
to let the carnal instinct of hatred take over
the strained civilisation you were born in.
It makes sense - war is peace. Orwell smiles in black and white. It makes
sense, but somewhere it drives me wild, it pierces somewhere deep inside,
somewhere it hurts. The world, singularly obsessed, following the news as if
it is the kind of conflict one can solve with another battlefield - a fistfight
on a playground, a larger punch, the shrill ringing bell that brings comfort
and louder cries for revenge - the kind of conflict that can be solved in this
unreal trajectory, with another silly paper signed by another dignitary.
I don't find War in the heroic battles, even in the armaments, the horrifying bombs.
Think about it with me for a second: a life, that too, the whole and gorgeous gem
of a life, a childhood precious with mist, the one afternoon the chubby babe said
"Mama", and his mother almost cried, called the neighbours and beamed like a
sunbeam at her husband; the evenings they dined together, the roses he picked
from the schoolyard bush, the first time he fell in love, the long conversations on
crackling telephone lines, the one sunset he watched on vacation and remembers;
a life whose sole motive becomes either to fight or escape the terrifying battlefield.
A life, forgotten in the rigour of army training; a life, kept precious back at home
with the conversations on repeat, the precious studio portraits, the awaited letters.
A life, the hundred things he might be thinking as he marches; the one sandwich
he is craving today, whether his ragged blanket will survive another day, how he
must darn his socks, write a letter, remember a word. A life, the hundreds of lives
that go into bringing up a child. A life, the scar on his right ankle from when he was
just fourteen, the small mole on his collarbone, the way his hair curled around his ears.
And of course, the inevitable, the climax reaching a denouement that nobody told him about,
the single afternoon picked out of so many, the mindless bullets, the single deadly shot, the
body in shock, the sky bluer than ever and the sense of a falling, the crowds marching, the cry
of a bird in the distance. The silence and ruins as dusk approaches. The corpse in a nondescript
corridor in a city of shadows. The compact pool of blood, as large as an ocean, the colour of wine.
And of course, the moment of eventual discovery. Another wobbling, broken soldier
who throws him into a grave with twenty others; or a war photographer, sick with
emotion, full of everything, convinced of his noble war against the war but unwilling
to touch this gruesome still mountain of a life. And of course, the picture, black and white,
in some museum or the other, fifty years later, another insignificant piece of art
that wants to be a part of history but is too small, too unlucky, doesn't know how.
And of course, me, quiet and wound up, in part the criminal and in part the victim,
in part the ruined scene of war - a landscape of destruction, a cracked time and space.
Of course, me, walking through another museum in another strange city, fists clenched
tight, full of everything, willing my eyes to absorb in all depth, walking small steps until
I reach this picture, this same picture a hundred times over;
a corpse, on cobbled stone or in overgrown grass; a corpse; a corpse; a corpse.
That one decisive moment, a life, for god's sake a whole goddamn life
wasted in the propaganda now long forgotten, the slogans and the meaningless
news reports, political angles, new weapons, maybe whole factories for uniforms
and boots and warfield toothbrushes; my god, a life, and nobody looked back,
nobody could blame it on the accountable remorse of illness or the callousness
of time; a life, not gone because the child was stillborn or unlucky with disease
at an early age, not gone because the adolescent decided that this life wasn't enough
and a noose would have to do instead; no choices, just a life blacked out, a life.
A life, and it made no difference. Nobody lost and nobody, nobody won.
There is so much cruelty in the world
but all of them still hurt, burn themselves into the white secrets of my flesh.