from Part 4


                      To seize and put into words, to describe directly 
                      the life of humanity  or even of a single nation,
                      appears impossible.
                                                                                     — Lev Tolstoy
So it’s just me in the back room with pneumonia.
The insurance man in the kitchen asking 
father when exactly the old man stepped off 
the curb in front of the truck father was driving 
for City Electric, how the body flew and the man’s
banged head made the sound of rock on rock, 

my chest gurgling, while Hitler’s armies 
have crossed Napoleon’s line of advance 
in two places, lungs locked in the Soviet cold

everywhere, even in my parents’ small bedroom
when father awakes alarmed at the shadow that
is not there crossing the doorway, a fear 

that is the famine of besieged cities
eating his years to come,

the old man forever sliding out on the morgue drawer, 
a neatly stitched “Y” the way war
and traffic on a gray morning are sewn

into history, where loss repeats itself 
while a father sits alone at a table, holding
his head, incalculable noise in the streets, 

because there is really only the person,
the one person, over and over again
trying to breathe.                        
John Allman | Mudlark No. 37
Contents | Rationing