I read this recently at a poetry reading, and the full script of it was requested, so here it is.
From the driver’s seat, she extends her hand, palm up. I look at it for a second, and then place mine in it.
We are widows now, and in this moment, angry widows. Our hands are empty now, but once they held shield and sword.
We were soldier wives, back to back against our men– our men who were always under siege, our men who wore our faith in them like armor, our men who bled on the inside from a war no one else could see. Every moment, they loved us. Every moment, they trusted us… until the moment they didn’t.
Until the moment they told us they were okay, and we rested in their arms, only to wake up face down on a battlefield bloodied by men who should have lived, who could have lived. Men who gave years of their lives trying to make sure life did not muddy us.
Our men dropped us, and they were so tall that we fell far. Our men dropped us, and they held us so tightly that they shattered our hearts on the way down. Our men dropped us and didn’t even give us the chance to go down like warriors, because they lied, and said everything was okay.
We went down without a fight and the nightmares we have now don’t have anything to do with ducking past the flaming arrows of life or the invisible battles we fight through. The nightmares we have now have nothing to do with losing our hearts or the ones who held them.
Our nightmares are in the backs we press our backs to, the ones that should have stood, that could have stood, the ones that let a lie weaken the armor we built together. Our nightmares are in the illusion of safe sleep, because if you cannot rest in the arms of one who loved you every minute, when can you rest? What minute could possibly be safe enough? And if the shields and weapons you held the whole way through did you no good in the time of deepest struggle, why hold them at all?
Her hands are empty now and she opens it for me. We were soldier wives and we are widows now. Angry widows, in this moment. I was dropped first, she– months later– but she has already put down her shield. There is a little one in the backseat of her car.
One who was dropped, but did not shatter, because he was held in her arms, protected by truth and love. He is unmuddied, and she keeps him that way. She stays clear and clean. Her hands are washed, and empty, and I stare blankly at the one she extends.
She sees no blood on my hands, I think, and that is why she is willing to hold them. I look at my hands, and though I’ve washed the mud and treated the wounds, the blood still stains my skin.
I set my hand in hers and she closes hers around mine. She has the hands of a maker– strong and possible– and for a second, I am away from the battlefield where everything fell apart.
But I don’t rest in the moment, because I don’t rest anymore.
There isn’t a life in my backseat counting on my steps forward. There is only me and, though I still can’t see the battle, I remember the fallen, and so I can’t put down my sword. Everything is dangerous.
Even, especially, most of all…