In my mind I am still in the midst of the Big War as my generation called it. I am collecting my belongings, gathering them closely under my long, big black coat and huddling close to vacant buildings. The snow is dirty with footprints and other soot beneath my feet and I long to have it disappear so I will not be so apparent in contrast. Across my head mortar fire pierces the cold night and I stumble. I think I am dead. My possessions are scattered and there is no life without them. They exemplified my personhood and now I am not even an idea.
Again, there is another skirmish, still from another time. A speaker stands among the multitudes and is giving forth an idea to clothe man’s mortality, he says. ‘I give to you Spirit, for without its recognition you continue to think you are nothing.’ My life is just fine I think and my catcalls and railing against him yields only to my spatting at him and running him through the village. I followed him and made his life miserable till we both died.
I stood watching my young son in a high collared uniform one day at smokey tracks as the long train waited for the boys to board. I stood by impotent with grief as he gazed into the face of his young love who held her upturned face with a hand firm on her straw bonnet. The pain etched in both faces stays with me still. Too old to battle that war, I battled others.
In triplicate sometimes. A young man waged stop-gap measures in a series of events with eyes that held pain written before this century began to fulfill itself and thought only this life brought insurmountable problems. Others in great numbers have incurred wounds that modern medicine with all its magic cannot even begin to heal. And others whose mail is addressed to places I cannot pronounce leaves no recourse but to worry about the uneasy state of affairs. But I know war and you know war, too.
But I do not worry unduly. There are places in my memory box which are unleashed and in dreams I am enmeshed in wars which only the history books have access to. My age precludes my participation in the earliest skirmishes, we are taught. But I have the details written in my genes. I have the human interest stories etched on my heart because I was there. And you were, too. We have fought the enemy and continue to fight him. He is our kin. He is our brother. He is us. I am he.