Afterward

Stalingrad_-_ruined_city

Stalingrad at the end of World War II

Another 20 minute fiction… So grim. What does it say that such stories surface in me?

How strange the day after surrender—the city still ruined, the same deprivation, the smoke, the ash, the puddles darker than the sky. So what changes? I’ve slept, that’s all.

And I dreamed. A convoy of vehicles came down the block, each panting hefty clouds of exhaust, and, hanging from every possible perch, was everyone I knew gone. The neighbor’s son beamed with the smile of a saint, and his father, who died just a week and a half ago with a gun in his mouth, watched him with sheepish regret. In my dreams, I’m the one missing and so I wasn’t there, but I believed myself, somehow, like the place itself, space that never changes no matter what happens in it.

I don’t know what to feel but that may be how I feel. Surviving isn’t the burden I expected. It’s invisibility. Some stream of time sweeps by you, and you’re a rock that parted it. What came together before you split around you and rejoined a little farther on.

Early in the war, every breeze of news lifted us. We didn’t just expect to triumph but thought a new order would rearrange the world. Our beloved state would be a great civic garden of monuments and blossoms. We wasted a good deal of colored paper, lost precious energy in dancing, marching, and shouting.

Old-timers knew to begin secreting supplies and heard our pleas long before we made them. Later, they shut their eyes and wagged their heads. Some wanted to help, but all blamed us. They would rather have slept. We were sorry to rob them. They were regret we wished to silence, and now I wonder if all they hoarded was our shame.

This morning the street is not as empty. People scour the remnants of kitchens, stores, and factories for anything that might sustain them—surrender won’t feed us—but those spots are worn bare. No one missed anything. We have taken it all, witnessed it all, the noisy fires and teetering crumble of cement and tangled skeletons of houses and flesh smells.

You want to forget, want to remember. Another morning and another after that might let amnesia creep in and then all will seem morning again, all promise and light. How do you sustain a nightmare when the only cure is waking?

I’d like to see something beautiful today—would like to make something beautiful—but no raw material remains to create it. And my mind, empty of nearly every face once floating through, lives only because it insists.

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Filed under Aging, Allegory, Ambition, Doubt, Dreaming, Experiments, Fiction, Fiction writing, Identity, Jeremiads, Kafka, Laments, Memory, Metaphor, Parables, Place, Prose Poems, Sturm und Drang, Survival, Thoughts, Voice, Worry

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