A Triptych by Barry Basden
Names from Another War
For three days, the Traveling Wall—half, maybe three-quarter size—stands on a hill in a far corner of the fort, away from the bustle of the main post. Families of a certain age and old-timers in boonie hats file past shiny black panels. They leave medals, faded photos, flowers beneath remembered names. So many names. Choked-up weeping. A few salutes. Silence. Nothing else but the wind, and in the distance, the dust of young soldiers preparing.
Hearts and Minds
This afternoon, using a broom cupboard scrounged from the shattered house, we buried a little girl who bled to death yesterday. We put in some blossoms and laid the girl’s leg in beside her. Then we lowered the cupboard into the damp earth close to a lilac bush in the backyard. The village was strangely quiet, except for a few sullen locals who stood nearby, speaking a language we couldn’t understand.
The woman stands in the doorway, looking through mist toward the lake and tall firs on the opposite shore. Behind her, a man wheels himself to the fireplace, takes an iron poker and strikes at the fire, as if beating back war rising from the flames. Curses and rage have followed them even to the end of this road, far from Walter Reed and its numbing group sessions. The man continues to pound, grunting. The dog cowers in the kitchen. Outside, the light is jaundiced. A loon calls from somewhere across the water, inviting her to swim.
Barry Basden lives with his wife and an old yellow Lab in the Texas hill country, where he is crazy about the San Antonio Spurs. He is coauthor of Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II. His shorter work has been published widely, both online and in print. His latest flash collection is Wince, and he is currently working on compressed pieces related to war.