After the pillage, the fires, and rounding up of the boys, the soldiers returned months later, dug up the graves, and took the bones away. They drove the high road along the river, drinking and yelling and throwing the bones, one by one, into the ravine. That’s when horses appeared on the ridge and charged down onto the road. The truck veered, plunged into the river. No one has seen any horses for generations. Now and then someone says he has seen horses on the ridge. No one takes him seriously. To hear the story is to see the horses, their breath spouting from their nostrils. But this isn’t what the soldiers tell, the ones who didn’t drown in the river. There were no horses, they say. They blame the drunken truck driver. This is just what the soldiers would say, we insist, because the soldiers are still trying to kill our story.
The Grease Pit
Say 8′ long, 6′ wide, and 6′ deep, into which, after dinner, Army mess hall staff pours the grease of the day, and my job on KP is to descend into the pit, and, with a stiff metal broom and hose, clean out the pit, swab the grease down
the metal drain. I have to stand in the slop and rake the broom back and forth to loosen the swarm of yick imbedded in the drain. To get down into the pit, they give me a ladder, then take it away. The pit walls are too
slimy to climb. They are to come inspect my work after a while, and, if the pit is clean, lower the ladder to me. I am done with the job and want to clean my boots, which will stink for days. Snow begins to fall.
I bounce from foot to foot. I hear them up there. They are smoking. It’s dark, the snow is starting to stick.
I Hum to My Shivering
I am walking along the road at night, shivering. Humming to my shivering. I walk into a spider web in a doorway
— that’s what it feels like. I wave my hand across my face. Snow! I’ve caught it just as it starts.
It smells good. Maybe things will be okay. I worried all day. I couldn’t keep anything down. Look,
the snow seems to part as if opening up a passageway. Is that how it feels going over
to the other side? When I go, maybe I’ll dissolve like one of these snowflakes. I look up into
so many against the night. Flakes land in my palm one at a time. I feel like a happy god.
Peter Sears’sSmall Talk: New and Selected Poems will be published by Lynx House Press in late 2014. He has published poems in Saturday Review, Field, The Atlantic, Poetry Northwest, and Rolling Stone. He lives in Corvallis, Oregon.