Arts of Peace

by Nina Murray

2012, Washington, D.C., Arts of Peace V

The hour he cannot never recall is the one
in which he began to believe what he was being told, the prognosis far from the worst,
the pain a shipwreck, a survivor of something that was no longer there.
No omen, but a ghost.

He remembers it was shortly after four when he left the building, an afternoon in April, a storm rolling up the Potomac. Outside, four uniformed Marines had lowered the flag. He saw their hands, sharp in the umber light, cajole on the stripes,
the silk alive, bucking them off, the billows of it
high above their heads. The yokes banged and snapped. The wind thumbed his chest.
He felt the work of being afraid done.

At the traffic light, lilacs whipped in the wind, and the smell slapped on the sidewalk heavy as wet laundry.

The homeless man on the other side watched him cross, looked him in the eye over his mirrored sunglasses, said, F*** you,
what are you lookin’ at?