Friday

Photograph



Looking at the photograph of the US soldier with a dead man lying behind him and the hand of the dead man propped up on his shoulder, I was struck first by how terribly terribly young the soldier was.  And how embarrassed his expression .  Not the far end of embarrassment close to shame but instead the look of someone whose friends had played a bit of a trick on him and he, although uncomfortable, wanted to be a good sport about it.

Then I saw the dead man, to whom the hand presumably belonged, lying behind him.  The dead I've seen have mostly looked the same and his corpse was no exception.  Emptied out except for that last small trace of something that looks like disappointment.  I could see this because his eyes were still open. I think that's why closing the eyes is first on the list in taking care of the dead.  Seeing that disappointment is awfully hard to bear.  We cannot console ourselves with the thought of a death's appropriate timing.  It was his time to go. It was for the best. That last lingering look of astonishment or disappointment cancels these possibilities.

Obviously no one was especially concerned with giving him the rites normally associated with the dead:   straightening his limbs, closing his eyes, covering him up. At this point he had become an object, no more no less.  A plaything.  A possible souvenir.  In a sense he had become an object long before he was actually killed.  Objectified by the people who killed him, the people who paid to have him killed and those who argued that he needed killing.  And to my way of thinking that process includes the people  who convinced him to put himself on the firing line.

I find myself wondering what his name was.  While writing this I've become curious about the once living life of the dead man.  How old was he?  Are his parents still living? Did he have a wife?  Children?  What were his dreams?  Before the hand became a prop in a war game, when it still belonged entirely to a living man, did it ever hold a pen used to write a poem?