Our Son’s Keepers

Stillness and a murder of crows. We pass formations of New England stone walls as the the boy tracks behind my trail bound steps. Someone’s sons put them in their place, jealous stewards with calloused hands and sweat-stringed brows. Groaning as they settle into the earth, those ordered stones speak of days and lives passed. Fossilized partitions as frames of poor men’s toil, unrecorded and irreverent. Unrelenting messengers of a forgone age, dotted with hidden passages still legible to contemporaries; stale blood patterned like braille crying foul. Rocks, splattered in memory, are called to be the keepers.

Stains came away from those faces in the following storm, but I can still hear it. Amidst the heaving and gasping of glacial parts now collaborating against their will in a chorus of moss and copperheads, the ancients cry out as best they can. Save yourself.

A mans death is rarely the sight they imagine for themselves; cloaked in glory and courage as they fall alongside brothers, or tucked neatly in the quilts of a flame-lit familiar room. Death is tears and terror and genetic incredulity. Chivalry an incomprehensible flash before their eyes like frantic gunpowder ignitions across the field; there are no more gentle men here. Men’s faces twist like a child’s calling for mother clutching open belly wounds and once useable limbs. Rocks, splattered in memory, are called to be the keepers.

The boy walks silently behind. In wavering trees and the howl of tender quiet he wonders at the stretched stone piles of dead men. He sees himself among them, inadvertent crenellations for cover, splattering memory where grass would one day grow. Childhood imagination a glimpse into the puerile mind of man.

So grandiose are those who wage war behind their eyes, in nutmegger meadows or capital war rooms. How playful are they, the handsome uniform and galant issue. How delightful the cannon and the crew serve to the man who hasn’t smelt them in the dusts of high noon, pouring smoke as signal fires for the rising souls they made. How brave the throat of the television anthem singer. How steadfast the grip of the tuxedo standard bearer. How boastful the dry cheeks of happy mothers. Unturned earth hasn’t forgotten its flavor; one of hearth and home. Of sons.

So let us not forget the torment of the dead amidst their endless fray. Let us remember the commercialized battlements of profiteers flecked in flesh and gravel. Let us examine supposed experts and the planners in their chairs. And let the errant sons learn gently while our lurid men learn rough. For the rocks, splattered in memory, are called to be the keepers. Let us listen.

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