A Memory Made Flesh
(music: la double vie de veronique)
The swallows came back today, like thin baby boomerangs they returned to their place of origin. I know not how many bomb blasted years have gone by since they first fled the horror of war. You can see them out in the far field torn open by shell and land mine. Scooping through a boiling fog of flies, the same flies that eat your blood and spread disease among what is left of the living. They are truly our saviours.
The swallows remind me of a time before desolation. They revitalise and replenish the polluted streams of today. They cleanse the mind of image upon image upon image of death and slaughter and decay. Simple images like a baby’s broken face could be forgotten, laughed at over a beer with your mates in a pub, were one still standing. But a mound of baby faces all shot to shit on top of a mound of fellow villagers all shot to shit on top of hallowed ground in a churchyard, the priest lay beside his brethren in his own faeces, his forehead broken open by the butt of a rifle, his fingers all broken from trying to defend himself.
He is charcoal in my mind forever burning ember of sorrow. You can hear the chicks of the swallows, chirping from some hidden place, maybe a hole in a rough stone wall or a bombed out outhouse or grain storage building. The café we used to drink in as a community, as a family just a heap of rubble steaming in the morning heat after the early downpour. The smell of roasting coffee on the old stone hob brings tears to my eyes. My mouth is so dry from lack of kisses, lack of love, lack of future.
A single report from a farmer’s air rifle and I am under the table banging my head but feeling not. The pain is inside now hidden from the brain. You can no longer register the nerve endings as they used to twitch, you can no longer turn off the pain with whiskey or anything you can find in your shed. The horror is with you always, woven into the genes at the gametal level. You are built from the raw trembling substance of it, you can taste its acridity when you bring up phlegm on a damp morning. You can hear it in the rasping coughs of the dying or nearly dead.
Won’t be long now, the last of our rations are but dry husks on a dirty floor. Rats are fatter than us but we don’t have the strength to harvest them for their meat. Instead we scavenge around in filth eating woodlice and beetles that taste bitter but sate our aching bellies for just another hour. The swallows feed their young, why can’t we?