In class, when we turn to your spot in the coursepak, I fear I’ll cry. Students love this essay, even the ones who play Call of Duty all the time, and just about every vet. This semester I have a vet who screamed loud and high when I turned out the lights. Last year: the girl who told me in the middle of a paper critique that she had been raped by her commanding officer. The year before that: the boy who very much wanted to talk about how he had killed an unarmed, old man under illegal orders; the one who kept failing to kill himself; the one who was disturbed by hearing men at bars lie about being Special Forces (he had been Special Forces), because so many women find lethality sexy.
In poetry, we’re on to elegies. The students read, “It feels like burning / and singing about burning” (Kaminsky), and “A lot of talk’s / plain scarred song” (Corey). They read Berrigan: “How strange it is to be gone in a minute!” And Powell, “who can tell us about love: a flaying.” “Etcetera, etcetera, I try” (Szybist). “In the morning they were both found dead / … Of the toxins of a whole history” (Boland). “Then the pulse / Then a pause. / Then twilight in a box. […] Then the same war by a different name” (Reddy).
They read about “the dreadful martyrdom” (Auden). And how, “All of us wane, knowing things could have been different” (Gilbert).
They read Celan, who survived his war only to die from it later:
Both doors of the world
opened by you
in the twinight.
We hear them banging and banging
and bear it uncertainly,
and bear this Green into your Ever.