Life Can Only be Understood Backwards

Issue TenIssue Ten PoetryPoetry

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by Magdalena Ball

He knew how to read the weather,

the synoptic, the radar

strong winds, showers

the rain was coming. 


He knew a lot of things,

collecting wisdom like knick-knacks

neatly arranged, shared freely

with no little pleasure.


I imagine him today,

Wedgewood-blue eyes

clouded by cataracts

giving me breathing tips

health tips, stats and anecdotes

dispensed from the pharmacy

of his memory while on horseback.


Now I’m his memory,

carrying a photo

those close-cropped war shots

in sepia, neat, young, a gun slung

on his shoulder.


PTSD didn’t have a name yet,

so he pretended it didn’t exist

built a house, started a business

in safe suburbia 

all that death held in check

in secret parcels left behind

as code, no one could link

to his fake name 

Fort Benning, Iceland, France


until it came out in rage

broken pots, broken plates

a few bruises maybe

who knows, everything heals

after enough time.