We are a graceless bunch,
squeezed together on the narrow
road south. What else can we do
but run away, leaving behind more
cargo then we can take? Even so,
the road south is littered
with abandoned possessions.
How will we begin a new life?
By the time we reach our new home
in whatever village takes us in,
we will be naked, stripped of
possessions and... hope... and
vigor. The last thing we will carry
into our new life is God's mercy.
Is it the hard haul over this muddy road
that keeps us silent, or is it shame?
Behind us, our enemy advances
with the slow certainty of victory.
Our soldiers abandoned their weapons
and their dead on the field of defeat.
Weapons and corpses sink into the mud.
Two of the retreating soldiers, one
of them grievously wounded, help me
pull my cart, carrying my wife and
three children. The rest is just cargo.
The soldiers and I exchanged names,
then set to work pulling and grunting.
Just ahead of us the road slopes downward
to the river valley. There our new
neighbors will ferry us to their neutral
country. We pause while my wife helps
the wounded soldier. The other soldier, his arms
akimbo, looks fixedly backward toward defeat
and death. The sun is shining brightly back there.
(This poem was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1968 film
SHAME, about the plight of refugees during a war
they cannot comprehend.)

by Daniel Brick

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