The lush green didn’t move. An obstacle
that wasn’t there lay ahead of me.
There had been rain.
It was the memory of an obstacle,
unmarked on my modern map, waiting,
its shining barbed coils dripping in the morning air.
An advance had been anticipated here.
All around it the beginning of the day swirled, as if
my sudden attention to it, struggling with its dimensions,
was another wave of confusion
in khaki, and then what always followed:
the waverings, occluded, falling to pieces, their lines
now only to indicate elevation….
If I change my position
it becomes easier to see. Shadowed by the edge of the wood,
lying low, coiling and recoiling itself, practicing.
Each time waking itself with its sharp reminders.
Every now and then the sound of a car passing. Around it
full summer crowding into what should be
a black and white photograph—protection—
the vacationing family again, on bicycles, moving
unhindered and quickly.
It refuses to look,
patient, waiting, resisting, resisting
still the very idea of advance. Patient,
but without compassion. And I
still near the edge of the field, of the wood,
between the field and the wood, waiting
for some gap, a way through.
Then some kind of flare hovering
illuminating the daylight, filling the hollowed ground, then
implacable endurance, the residual
stubbornly held on to, history
again material, catching
at my clothes—some kind of affirmation—
until there it is, all of it—spider wire, snarls
of concertina, knife rests, chevaux-de-frise,
until the thing itself—as seen here
or from the air, quivering, spooling
back on itself, revealing the rest, where it was—
is for a moment clear.
From Salient (New Directions, 2020). Copyright © by Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing.