Issue 13

Autumn 2014



The pilot sat mummified in webbing, a slim branch
impaling his larynx, blood spattering the cockpit
like spilled paint drying. I fingered the eagle
on his Luftwaffe breastpin. Gold? I hoped so.
I found the gunner in the snow, on the lip of hell,
limbs twisted like the swastika on the tailplane. 
His hair shone, copper as the plane's torn wires.
His grey eyes stared, unfathomable as pearls.

I smeared his skin in horse fat, cocooned his torso
in the furs I use to dream in. He raved in my arms,
called me mother, demon, teetering on the ledge
between waking and the thousand-season sleep. 
I summoned him home in the language of the trees,
let my poppy tea warm him. Soon he dozed
under my herbs, masks and drum, sweating
beside the fire, the smoke-hole a clouded moon.

Shadows dipped their wings like circling planes
as I threw hemp onto hot stones, breathed in
and sowed the germ of the future in his ear: 
You will plant forests over the scabs of human
abattoirs. Fallen leaves camouflage burial pits. 
Roots crack skulls till they crumble back to soil.
I kept the rest quiet. He’d grow rich and fat.
Beget sons on two women: one wife, one witch.

After three weeks he limped to the margin
of the pines, strong enough to hail the patrol
sent to find his remains. He said he'd roamed
at random, snared rabbits, chewed mushrooms.
He lived till 1990, Reunification, planting timber
to prop the economic miracle. His foliage spread,
mottled and bushy. Hid Stuka, swastika, me, fire.
And you, inheritor, pearl-eyed with copper hair.


William Stephenson