Katherine Leonard

Collateral Realities

I.

Memories get buried in collateral flow 

twinned neurons lie in parallel stream beds 

flowing through the Corporal's brain.


In that first Iraq war, the Corp took on 

all the damage his men endured. 

But mostly took on the children – the girl – her bloody stump

and the smell of death 

 

After the night's bombing raids the Corp's unit suited up in Tyvek

and respirators to recover bodies 

as they picked through fields of explosives and snipers.


Even Vicks smeared up the nose behind the masks could not block 

that smell – flesh rotting in 120 degree heat.


II.

Two channels run side by each but separate 

so one may dive below consciousness.


The Corp brought his men home 

after the lieutenants and sergeants had been used up – dead.


The channels split information overflow to protect and defend 

the mind of the Corp.


He became a civilian with memories that churned 

in the deep channel and boiled 

over into the everyday channel.


He flailed his fists – at whoever, wherever, was in reach.

Collateral damage of memories

became jail time for the black soldier. 

Time like a blanket smothered the frayed collateral, 

settled deeper now below the everyday flow.

But, like deep-swimming whales, that child’s missing leg 

under her bloody dress breaches through his head

taking him under, back.


Now, he walks it off – through miles of empty downtown. 

The Corp knows the streetlamp patterns of darkness

and the sun's waking eye.

Fists jammed in his pockets, he streams with sweat in heat or ice 

until memory’s overflow sinks below the surface.


Katherine Leonard grew up in the US and Italy.  She lived in Massachusetts at the time of John F Kennedy's assassination and experienced segregation and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination as a high school student in rural Texas. She has been a chemist, a geologist and an oncology nurse/nurse practitioner. Her work has been previously published in Healing Muse, Sonora Review, Writers Café Fairy Tale Edition, Underwood Press True Chili Edition, and Northern New England Review.