Thunder dies to distant taps
outside this circle of oak elders standing tall
around a hole in the battle smoke.
Where it falls, my helmet is a turtle on its back,
hollow and silent, though shadows shout beyond,
blasting rubble in the world of wars.

Trees here have taken many fallen ones
underground. In a clearing, I drop
like an empty shell, a puff of smoke
my last breath. My eyes freeze where my body
may not stay. Birds and leaves refuse
to leave the tree rings, leave the dream,
nor shall I awaken though smoking
steel fingers order my surrender.
I give up to a not-so-vacant lot instead,
the old war drum of my heartbeat
fading into the harmonies of songbirds.

Robert S. King, a native Georgian, now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he edits the literary journal Kentucky Review and serves on the board of FutureCycle Press. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, and Kenyon Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014) and Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014).


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