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