LOST ORDNANCE/ Walter Bargen The first shovelful is alive and rich. I'm down on my knees breaking clods with my hands; cool and smeared across my palms, clouding my fingernaUs, a damp earth that knows its time. Standing again, I drive the shovel's blade with a boot, a muffled ring. It happens a second time. hit something hard that releases I begin carefully to dig, remembering the midriver sandbar one dry spring Staring into rippled shocks of light, I saw the black outline of a machine on the Rhine a few years after the war. gun exposed by the retreating water and couldn't swim that current to save it. Defeated, I turned away. Those summers outside Mannheim, in the many-feet-thick fortifications overgrown by sapling pines, it was there I played my death over and over, at one jagged blown hole or another, on top of the parapet or in an empty gun emplacement, my cheek finding the carpet of moss, and somehow my body jumping up to rehearse the charge again. It didn't matter which side I was on, the dying was so easy. Around the perimeter, I dug up spent shell casings that had hardly aged, arranging
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Oct 5, 1997
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