The broken chords of battle hold their breath, then exhale, leaving me still living among these smoldering catacombs. Like a child watching a thunderstorm retreat, I count the heartbeats between cannon’s flash and roar.I scan the eerie darkness for signs of life––and perhaps signs that I am still alive.
A flicker disturbs the stillness, and I reach for my lost rifle.
It’s only a pigeon. I have ignored a million pigeons, but I can’t take my eyes away from this one as it performs a slow-sad shuffle towards me.
A carrier pigeon, pink paper fastened around its leg.
The message cannot be for me, but there is nobody else alive, and I hate to think of the bird’s courageous journey being wasted, so I remove the note, unwrap it, then read it.
Dear friend (or foe), I know not which,
This field was once an apple grove,
Where night-birds clamored overhead,
And children braided daisy chains
Till mothers called them home to bed.
But now the children all are gone,
Forgotten are the daisy chains,
The apple trees are all cut down,
From flocks of birds just one remains.
I gaze at the note for a long time––or perhaps it’s just a minute––in No-Man’s land even a second is a long time.The only thing I know for certain is that the note is not intended for me, but if I don’t answer, then who will?
I tear a yellowed page from my diary—the month of September. It’s August right now, and I don’t think I’ll be needing September.
I write the following:
Dear foe (or friend), I care not which,
I offer you my last refrain,
In fractured verse, with shaking hand
In tiny letters marching over
Paper soaked in last night’s rain,
Then fold it round a pigeon’s foot
And bind it like a wedding band
To send it back through thunderheads
From my redoubt in No-Man’s Land