With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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How many boys who loved playing army,
Who loved pretending to be shot
tumbling down summer hills,
Who loved pretending to be dead
as their best friend checked to make sure,
Or who loved pretending to deliver
their last-words soliloquy
wincing in imagined pain
or lost and dreamy,
Find themselves years later
trapped on the battlefield
Hearing the voices of enemy soldiers
Searching for corpses to mutilate
or wounded to torture to death?
What man remembers those idyllic
boyhood days then
As he lies still as possible
Trying not even to breathe,
hoping beyond hope
the enemy will pass him by,
Knowing if he’s discovered
they’ll cut off his cock and balls
and stuff them in his screaming mouth
And then, before cutting off his head,
disembowel him before his eyes?
Ah, thousands of boys and men
have met this end,
Millions perhaps by now,
so many people
so many wars.
Do they go to a special heaven
set aside for
all who die like this?
Restored to the bodies they had,
The memory erased of that insane end
to the story of their lives?
Do they still get a chance
to play army with joy
And pretend to be shot
and pretend to die
After they meet this end?
Do they still get to thrill
in pretending to be dead
after they die?
After this hideous, inhuman end
will they laugh and wrestle
their best friend again?
Editor’s note: When this poem was published in our May issue, the last two stanzas were inadvertently dropped. It appears here in its entirety.
I haven’t been thrilled with your last five issues. Some of the poetry has been exceptional, especially Antler’s “Pretending to Be Dead” [July 2003], but your interviews are too long. I can understand that you want to present an in-depth discussion, but I can rarely make it through the entire nine or ten pages. Sometimes I get resentful that you give that much space to a single person, using up pages that could be devoted to more fiction or poetry.
I’m not sure I like the way you’ve organized the magazine into departments. I liked it better when I was left wondering whether a story was true. It added an aura of wonder to your magazine. And I’m unhappy that you have begun to include essays by authors who write about their illnesses, such as Al Neipris’s “Health Care” [May 2003] and Richard Grossinger’s “A Phenomenology of Panic” [April 2003]. Such pieces are boring and unimaginative, and I could find them in other magazines.
When I first discovered The Sun, I remember reading Sy’s Notebook and thinking, What a bunch of crap! Anyone could write this stuff. How come he gets a whole page to himself every month? And so I thought little of it when I read in March that the Notebook would appear less regularly. But when I turned to the inside front cover of the April issue and realized that Sy was not among the contributors, I felt a strange sadness. Somehow The Sun isn’t the same without his wise observations that make the mundane seem anything but.