by: m. gantee

It’s been a long time.  I have not been afright.  It’s been a long time, sitting here in this boneyard with not a thing to feather my bones or shiver my spine.

“Bah-hoo, bah-hoo,” says the owl.  And then it is silent.  Silent for a good, long while as its wings move through the air, its talons unfold, and it spears a tiny ball of fur that – still wriggling and trembling – moves plumply through beak and gullet and is suddenly no more.  And only then, there is more: “Bah-hoo, bah-hoo.”

I sit here, swallowing the night air in great, cool gulps.  I sit and swallow.  My eyes have set with the sun and then risen with the moon.  Everything is silver and shimmering.

Ghosts stir.

They whisper their pleas and ancient sorrows.

I care not.

There is a soldier who comes at times, bayonet fixed, great hole gleaming angrily where there should be a plump child’s cheek.  He asks where he is.  I tell him.  He asks where the regiment went.  (To be alone, to be lost, to be left as the fury of war sweeps over and past you – all of this must be a terrifying thing.  Woods, rich and damp as you knew them as a child, could still be rich and damp or they could be terribly silent because cricket and nighthawk both know what you do not: sniper, land mine, death, death…)

He listens for a moment and then asks again where the regiment went. 

I tell him that they left.  They went home long ago.  The war is over.  His one remaining eye stares through me as if my words and my flesh are both made of the same incomprehensible lie. 

“Go home,” I say to him.  “Go home.”

He tramps past me, looking.

I sit here, watching Wife Clemsy rise from her slumber, finally able to cradle the babe who went before her, but weeping now over the disappearance of her other three. 

“You need sleep,” I tell her.  “Go, sleep.”

She weeps, goes back to huddling near the marble slab.  The night is thick with silence and with her weeping.  The baby doesn’t cry.  Silent as a doll it is.

I sit here.  It has been a long time.  And you know, when you find this record of my nights, that I exist.  I am here.  Still, I sit.  Fear does not grip me.  I have known the darkness.  The chill.  The wailing that comes from stone.  The bodies that no longer have voice.  It exists.  As do I.  And so, fear does not exist.  Read this record and know, too, that as the paper touches your skin, you can know my flesh for these words.