Christina A. Sharik

TRENCH HANDS – WWI

ALT
Photo of a soldier’s hand left on the battlefield after the battle of Verdun in WWI. It is a horrific photo, not because of any gore and violence being seen. The hand is what is left from the violence that has occurred and leaves, in the viewers mind, the images of all the violence that must occurred before this image was captured.
He looked at his hands
all battered, scarred,
encrusted with dirt
and God knows what
and cried –
and thought of all the
men who’d died –
he thought of his hands
all washed for dinner,
nails trimmed, and clean
enough to pass his mother’s muster.
He thought of his hands
that held the handlebars of the
bicycle
and used to pet the mutt
that he named Buster –
hands that used to throw
the newspapers on early mornings –
and sometimes missed –
he thought of the hands upon
his wife’s dear face –
a face he had so long ago, kissed.
Thought of
holding his mother’s
smaller hand before he said
that last good-bye –
He looked at his own strange
hand again, and thought
Who Am I?
I’m not the same as I
was then
and I will never be that
man again –
My hands will never
be clean, no matter
how I scrub
for these are trench hands,
used for things untold
my mother wouldn’t know
these hands, he thought –
I am 20 and feel so old.
I live in a scar in the earth
that seems miles deep
and when I hear the mangled
men – dying, screaming –
I pretend the earth
is sighing, that I’m not crying,
that I am only dreaming
in my non-existent sleep –
Oh mother, I miss you so.
All my willingness to fight
all my naive bravery has fled –
I am so tired, so wet, so
full of fear – so angry –
It is as it my soul has bled
completely dry.
And then the orders came.
Without even realizing,
he wiped his dirty hands
upon his jacket, and fixed his
bayonet.
And with deep breaths
he moved forward – step by step –
and prayed that no one
would forget.