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 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.