He said, "It is terrible what happens."
And "So, Mr. Tom,
do not forget me"—an old-fashioned ring, pop tunes,
salsa! salsa! the techno-version of Beethoven's
Fifth, Fairouz singing how love has arrived,
that's what he heard after they dropped the bombs,
his ambulance crawling through smoke while cellphones
going off here here here kept ringing—
how the rubble-buried bodies'still living
relatives kept calling to see who survived.
And when he dug through concrete scree scorched black
from the explosion, squadrons of jets droning overhead,
houses blown to rebar, he saw cellphones'
display lights flashing from incoming calls
and when he flipped the covers, saw phone camera pics,
pics of kids, wives, dads, single, grouped, some wearing
silly party hats, scenes of hilarity
compacted on the screen: it was "not good"
he said, to have to take the phone out of the body
part pocket: Hello—no, no, he's here,
right here, but not—
and then he'd have to explain...and so he stopped
answering. A soft-spoken young man
studying engineering, only moonlighting
as an ambulance driver, he stood at
the crossroads where Jesus turned water
into wine and where, rising out of rubble, floating down
the cratered street, bride and bridegroom came walking
in the heat and as they came the wedding guests held up
cell cameras clicking when the couple climbed, waving,
into TRUST TAXI
blazoned on the car's rear windscreen. The muezzin's
nasal wail began to blare all over town, and the pair
drove off to ululating shouts and cries, firecrackers
kicking up dust in the square. The show over, we
got back into our car, our tires crunching
over rubble. As I sat there rubbernecking
at a burned-out tank, he shrugged: "All this—how embarrassing."
And "I hope this is the story you are after."
|Copyright © 2011 by Tom Sleigh. Reprinted from Army Cats with the permission of Graywolf Press.|