I know we’ve been exchanging letters for a while, and in that process you’ve channeled my own ordeal transitioning back into civilian life. Despite those efforts and, in your case, incredible talent and success, I feel it’s better I share my own thoughts. I can only presume one of two things, either you’re miraculously untouched by the impact war made on us all, or writing is an extremely therapeutic process. Though I believe without a doubt there’s the ability to block one’s memory, living distant to life’s events, I’m banking on my words becoming a touch of medicine. I need to heal. With that said, this will be my last letter, and with it the inclusion of a simple excerpt of my own story. As much as it felt good to put things on paper, and out of my mind temporarily, there was always the time between sitting down with pen and paper, the proverbial ink well of sleep, closing my eyes to nightmares each night I now know will never subside. I assume in living the lives we have there exists the promise of ‘material,’ which would naturally result in a prolific career for a writer. Unfortunately for me, I am not that person. With each word of each sentence scribed, I struggle. I see no more reason to articulate memories, and pain, I wish extinguished and erased. What is left is what I’m calling ‘The Epilogue.’ There’s no lead in, because there’s no real reason why the story should have happened. There’s no end, because frankly, it’s been persistent for so many years. If anything, it’s a futile attempt at making amends. With whom, I’m unsure. There are so many. And with that so many reasons to apologize.
Do with this what you wish.
The Epilogue, or A Poetic Draft of a Confession
by Norman Bowker
Light bring light, my flashlight igniting rounds of small arms and mortar fire, seeking the soul of a companion I released, yet can’t seem to let go. That soul venturing down a tunnel unlike those we’ve traveled flushing out an enemy, inversely discovering an existence beyond; this tunnel leading somewhere, heavenly, from the cesspool in which we lay and pray.
Light bring light, Flashlight then flash, light. I killed my friend.
And even if this were a just war, there are no tickertape parades anymore. There’s no MVP, despite the enthusiasm for medals. Despite the apathy for loss. Our recognition lay not in confetti, but flares. And the avenues that welcome us are merely sectors of fire.
Our Father is Uncle Sam.
We Hail Martha, instead of Mary.
Acts of Contrition are carried in bandoliers, loaded uniformly into magazines.
We do not kneel. We lie in the prone position.
The SOP is Gospel.
And the wake up that follows our last day is that promise of eternal life.
Only it’s a lie.
We are prisoners to history books, yellow and muted, shell-shocked from tears spat upon us. The greater good is the economic upswing, a pendulum waving parallel to a casualty count.
There will be memorials, yes. However, memorials are fuel to the Great American War Machine, and never truly say die.
But I must.
I must because I can’t right this wrong. And I can’t write this wrong.