The Unnameable

Why don’t they talk about it

The old men, the departed

Why didn’t they say what happened?

I do not know, but I have said

I’ll never tell things either, or I will not do it again face to face with another.

I’ll say I did guard duties,

And had a girlfriend there,

And look them eye to eye and laugh.

The roads and operations

Were easy then, and still are now

So when I talk about it

I raise my voice and default to the growl of an instructor

Telling about how this man had it there, and that one died years later,

Casting out, he said, his life, his devils.

And if I told them that, it was enough that was not to be said.

But I won’t tell them of it anymore,

Because of the coldness of the air,

And the urge to weep while telling.

Crying which does not happen,

Just the expectation and the dread

Of body and memory in the cold of the summer. Considering the things

Which have no solution

Or, which I am not equipped

To understand or make some amends for and which I cannot look at.

I can tell it in a poem or a post,

About how, at the end,

The people mumbled in their barbarous tongue

And spoke through an interpreter,

About how they were afraid that we would leave them; they wanted me to stay with them

And I did not. A town

With many internecine tribes. And

The dusty afternoons with my children

Which used to bring that listless weariness and the crying;

The afternoons in Wales in summer

With the dust, the yellow grass, and the sounds

Of children running about,

Bring to mind the collapse of social places

Even with the young playing around me,

Once I have told you

What happened, and have told you face to face.

And so, I’ll never tell.

And what of the definite isolation

Which comes when talking of that moment

Of shame and weakness when the spirit

Recognised not only the paternalistic job

Had finished, and those frightened people

Were going to be left to themselves;

What about the moment when

You find the decision you made unbearable

And nothing absolutely nothing which you have known can save you or extract you?

I do not want to let them ask.

I do not want to fall apart internally

And go too far so that

I may not get back out;

What with the bloodshot eyes which look Like those you see on animals in labs

Which have been subject to experiment.

I will never tell them from now on.

Let me bow before the drawing of our God

And kiss the cold painted wood before sleep

Then turn to the children’s happy images behind the glass, inside the picture frame.

Above, in the air, the angelic brightness

Hovers over the house and the little town

And sends a shaft of light upon their house

With smiles and arms outstretched they rise in sleep

And this the blessing and good that I will give

I, forever blessing in this way,

Let me stay blessing and in prayer like that always. I do not want to leave.

I cannot talk about what has happened now

Nor delve into the past

Among the dust and the dry grass of the sun, and the chaos

Let them be at peace, the town here and the one there and the blessing, and not talking.

It is just as hard to recognise I love The boys that were with me

We do not talk of that. Just as a wife assumes with me I love her

Because I will not talk of it but just remain with her and never go away.

I would rather today close my eyes and weep in the heart

And let the light from above clear away the mundane devils

And not look into your face and tell you,

And thereby be obliged to look at what has happened to us,

But with closed eyes and lips call out to the highest.

Design Jason Powell, 2020.

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