Whenever I write your name, your beautiful face comes to mind. How I love to plant kisses there. Poets write about smiling eyes but yours are the only ones I have seen that really do and for me to boot. Did the cosmos come up this spring? I smile every time I remember your little-girl excitement when you placed the tiny seeds, one by one, in the front yard flower bed.
It is my pleasure to remember seasons spent with you, to have actual memories. They are a future promise a lot of the guys here don’t have. This awful place offers its season of war and nothing else. We, as you know, can’t speak of where we are, as if we knew. I have so much more than others here, just to imagine you wearing that flowery spring dress will get me through a day. The doctor is here so I have to leave off for now. I’ll be right back.
I’m back but it didn’t go so well. I forgot to mention yesterday that I’m in a field hospital, finally a few miles off the front line. I don’t want you to worry about me. I’ll be okay. They can’t do much for my wound here but are arranging for a bird (helicopter) to come get me and a couple other guys.
While I wait I’m just gonna write to you for a while. I’m gonna close my eyes and, once your face is clear to me, I’ll have myself a nap. The worst shock in this hospital is upon waking. You are so vivid in my dreams. I feel like I have been kidnapped and dragged into some terrible nightmare place when I wake up.
I don’t think I could bear these long nights and dreary days if I didn’t have you at home waiting for me. The enemy crawls up on us at night. A buddy and I were talking about that awhile back. He thought it would make a lot more sense to fight on home ground. Remember those football games when we were kids. No one could catch me with Becca in the stands cheering me on. But this is no game here Darlin’. I hope our battles are never fought at home.
Home is where you and the cosmos are. I can see you planting tulip bulbs, a sprinkle of cosmos seeds here and there. Maybe you can send me a picture, not that you didn’t describe it well enough. Did I tell you I love you before I left? I’m sure I must have but can’t remember and that just about drives me crazy. I love you, Rebecca. There, that helps a little.
I gotta go for now, Sweetheart. We’re on lights out tonight. A recon showed signs of a possible offensive.
I can’t believe I went to sleep so fast last night. They have me on morphine every three hours. An hour or so after the shot I get kinda dreamy. I’ll have to ask the doc if maybe they put something in my drip bag to help me sleep. Last night I dreamt about our dreams, mine and yours. You know, the one where we’re both writers, me in my cave and you out there with your flowers.
Remember when I said we were too young, hadn’t lived enough to be real writers? Well, I have now. I could write about what I’ve learned in this war for the rest of my life and still not have it told. Never mind the cave idea though. I swear, I’ll sit by your side in the wonderful sunshine and write until my fingers are sore. So, you buy another lawn chair and I’ll bring the iced tea. Oops! Gotta go, Honey. Got a little infection here and they’re gonna run me through a battery of tests.
I overheard the medic who treated me on the field talking to my doctor. I have to say too that you were right about feeling what is said, it being something entirely different than the words. I won’t be coming home. My life has become that ‘whisper and a prayer’ thing. I do love you so and want you to know you’re the last and only thing on my mind. You are my courage.
When they send that person to the house to tell you about me, you’re gonna hear what a brave soldier I was, the courage I showed in hand-to-hand combat. Funny thing is, it’s almost the truth, like all the other almosts that go with war. When they snuck up on us that morning, I actually put a bullet into another human being. I swear Rebecca, time froze for a moment. Both our weapons jammed after I shot him.
He came screaming toward me. I stood up to meet his charge, scared half out of my wits. No doubt though, I could overcome a wounded man in hand-to-hand combat. A hummingbird, Becca... I swear I never saw anything like that in my life. It hung between us in the air, sweet on the blade of my bayonet. Bored out of my brain earlier in the day, I made a wreath of wildflowers and laced them together there.
Forgive me, my sweet, sweet, girl. Each flower bore your name. Our eyes met on the fast fluttering wings of that tiny bird. The man would have stopped if he could have. Neither of us would have chosen to fight and die in Rebecca’s garden but it is done. His bayonet ran me through and he was already dead.
We never know how much our letters will be censored. I have tried to follow the rules here. These are my last wishes. Rebecca, you spread my ashes amongst the cosmos. You have to be strong. Get that second chair and find yourself a good young man to sit there with you. Bury my ashes in Rebecca’s Garden.
© 2018 artwork, music & words
conceived by & property of
Tom (WordWulf) Sterner 2018 ©
Rebecca’s Garden was published by Voices in Wartime 2005