by T. E. Taylor
When he returned, they were so glad
to find him whole, unblemished: four limbs,
two eyes, skin tanned but unburnt, unholed.
They’d heard the stories of what might have been,
those bodies minced and sutured back together,
faces melted, bones and flesh replaced with metal.
You made it through, they cried, wrapped arms
around the solid, reassuring mass of him,
awaiting his embraces in return. None came:
those fine, muscled arms hung limply by his side.
Such words as passed his mouth appeared
to come from very far away. So much of him
had missed the plane and was still over there,
among the bullets and the bombs that took
his friends but spared this now half-empty body.
What’s left of him is lost inside it, midway
between these caring faces and the other self
for whom there can be no way back.
First published in The Lake