Rick Bursky



The Toy Soldiers


When he returned home he found

the toy soldiers had left,

one hundred plastic men

carrying their belongings

in sacks thrown over the shoulder

like a retreating army carries

the essentials of running away:

extra socks, blanket, stale bread,

wallets taken from the dead

to be returned as a consolation prize. 

Hadn’t he nailed the windows shut?

Tied the mean dog to the door?

He began to notice other things were missing.

Laces from the black shoe under the chair,

its eyes empty, agape,

a dead man’s toothless mouth. 

There was no conversation,

there was just the sound of a woman

brushing her long black hair,

a car coming to a stop,

crows flying off the telephone wires,

dust lifting from their wings.

Later, he’ll tell a friend that’s what it felt like,

dust lifting from the wings.

This was how he invented forgetting.



“Death Obscura,” Sarabande Books, 2014