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Icarus in Arms

by Grady Smith

There beside the one at rest stands the one who had his way,
His blade still red with the proof of winning.
Before the steel is cleansed of it
​The skin it warmed
​The flesh it fed
​The heart made stronger by its flow
​And all the rest
​All that can be seen of him and touched
Must lie beneath disinterested stones
​To hide him
​To give him decent privacy for what must come
And there above him
​Like some loved old friend in dotage
​His sword will top the cairn point down
​And foolishly wave the inadequate shield

But look now
There beside the one at rest
The one who had his way hovers above that face
Sensing beneath the cooling blood
​What he can never leave behind nor yet approach
His flows as readily
​Darkens as rapidly
​As easily is wiped away.

No wonder!
No wonder it seems he has ripped those vacant eyes away
​To use them as his own
​No black center
​No tinted ring
​No focusing cone of chilling comprehension
That the one already cold might have had his place

And where would he then be?

Now in the stretching of that one brief moment
​Before your eyes look outward again
​Fly to the sphere of light—
​Fly to its firestorm
​Rising in some primal heaving thrust
​Against the resisting dark.
Fly till the waxy spine of your arching flight
​Repeats the legend
​And you lurch unwinged
​Between the bright heat
​And the cold stone pile
A soldier once again.

Grady Smith served as an infantry company commander in the Vietnam Delta. His debut novel Blood Chit tells the story of a young NCO in Vietnam who is sent home with PTSD. It has been nominated for the Library of Virginia 2013 Literary Award for the Novel. His short story “Al Gomez” appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 of “O-Dark-Thirty.” He lives in Arlington, Va., with his wife Katy.

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