Moment in a Story
A Japanese aphorism, said to be samurai:
“Live like you are already dead.”
Fair enough, the same thing
my squad sergeant told me
as we shared a foxhole under fire
somewhere near Cu Chi, sometime
in the ’69 rainy season. “You
can’t die if you’re already dead.
Nothing else matters.” I hoped
it was true, because a piece of shrapnel
sliced off the top of his skull
disclosing the brain
in a stunning anatomy lesson.
confirmed once more.
Metal shards cut me, too,
but only a minor tattooing
that healed to invisible. I
didn’t break through to another side
or do the death thing. I just absented
me from myself and suffered it,
as millions before me had, returning
to a continuation of my life
that never quite worked out.
He lopped her head off while looking
at her reflection in a shiny shield,
so he couldn’t be petrified
like all the others who came before,
now statues scattered around her.
She didn’t do it on purpose. Poseidon
raped her in Athena’s temple
affronting the goddess who cursed the victim,
having her beautiful face and golden tresses
rendered horrific, her hair becoming
her trademark writhing serpents,
a monster whose terrifying visage
turned all who saw her into stone.
But the sea god had impregnated her,
and when the sword took her head
she foaled Pegasus, the winged horse,
who would wind up outlined in stars.
It’s part of a myth.
Metamorphosis eats mimesis,
then excretes it in other forms.
Happens all the time.
Save your questions for later,
when you find someone who can help.
Lucas Carpenter’s stories have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Short Story, The Crescent Review, Nassau Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and South Carolina Review. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, one book of literary criticism, a collection of short stories, and many poems, essays, and reviews published in more than twenty-five periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, College Literature, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Poetry (Australia), Southern Humanities Review, College English, Art Papers, San Francisco Review of Books, Callaloo, Southern History Journal, Chicago Quarterly Review, and New York Newsday. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Emory University.