War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

scar (from May Day)

o M.,

I daydream again. it must be the grey of winter. now the snow has gone.

today a lake. cool. green. weedy. the sand hot. broken bits of snail shells, crayfish pincers. 20 pelicans sleeping on the rock outcrop. shaking feathers, looking up as I swim out into the smooth water. my hands, my face, my breath. each stroke strong. deliberate. breaking the surface.

500, 600 metres I swim. then heave myself up onto the floating dock. lie flat. my back against the hot wood. winter silvered, scarred into it. the sun soaking my body. my dream.

M., remember the last summer. Matheson Lake. you came to say goodbye. we lay on the beach pretended just to be. for a day. a couple. and not a passing thing.

a packed basket. wine in coffee cups. I folded towels for the two of us. we swam through white lilies. laughed at dragonflies. making love. silver and blue question marks buzzing, soldered to one another. for life.

I saw your scar. from ’06. beautiful ripple of mended flesh. down the side of your chest. traced it with my fingertips. later, at night. with my lips.

and you said you liked your scar. reminded you of scratches and dents on your ‘42 chev pickup before you restored it. “patina reveals character. each scar, a story,” you told me. but you hammered and painted and polished that truck new again. only you knew where the injuries had been.

then we looked up, saw 3 young guys. you recognized them as your new recruits. graduates fresh from battle school. Wainwright. you said, “oh shit,” but I said, “don’t worry, they can’t know your wife anyway.” so you waved at them, they waved back, headed to the opposite side of the beach. didn’t want to look at you. didn’t want to think about Afghanistan either. knew they’d be on that Hercules flying into KAF soon enough. listening to your orders.

and I watched them. 19, maybe 20 years old. take off shirts. tanned. muscled. but skinny. not an ounce of age on them. their long shorts almost falling off when they climbed the rocks, dived in. to the black water of the lake.

they hooted and hollered as their bodies hit the cool water. then swam to the island and back, a kilometre at least. shook off the lake like wet dogs before they lay on their towels, began to survey every woman under the age of 40. that still had her figure.

I looked at the young guys’ skin. drying smooth as the surface of the lake. unscarred. still.

I think about those boys M. look for their faces in the paper. wonder. did they, will they make it. home again? will they still love the lake? will they still love to swim?

and I remember once J told me that being in the infantry, especially on ex, wrecks camping, the wilderness for lots of guys. too many nights sleeping in tents that are either too hot or too cold. or out in the open. too many days without showers. too much rain, snow, sun. everything.

but he also told me that some of the brothers can’t get enough of it. the open. air. live for it.

what about you M? don’t tell me. I think I can guess.

“pour me a beer baby,” you’ll say to me, stretched out on the hot sand. “this heat is great, though not as hot as Afghanistan.” “shall we go camping this weekend?”

and I’ll crack a corona for you, squeeze a slice of lime. trace the scar on your chest. gratefully. to have you near.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled scar (from May Day). It was posted here on January 13, 2009.


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