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The Bodies Beneath the Table

Hue City, 1968 (or was it Fallujah, Stalingrad, or Ur?)

The bodies beneath the table
had been lying there for days.
Long enough to obliterate their faces,
the nature of their wounds.
Or maybe whatever killed them
ruined their faces, too.
Impossible now to tell.
Only the putrefying bodies
bloated like Macy's Parade balloons,
only unrecognizable lumps on
shoulders where heads should be.

The two of them seemed to be a couple:
husband and wife, lovers perhaps,
maybe brother and sister-who
could tell-but they'd pulled the table
into a corner away from the windows,
their only protection against
the fighting raging around them,
crawled beneath it-the table, I mean-
half sitting, bent at the waist,
close together, terrified, almost
certainly terrified, nothing but noise,
only each other, only each other,
any moment their last.

All these years I've wondered
how they died. Who were they.
Who remembers.

W. D. Ehrhart is author of 14 books and 10 chapbooks, most recently Sleeping with the Dead from Adastra Press. An ex-Marine sergeant and a 1973 graduate of Swarthmore College, he lives in Philadelphia with his wife Anne and daughter Leela and teaches English and history at the Haverford School.