Aria for the Dead Ones

by Peter LaBerge


A soldier, impressionist as he dies. Then he’s perpendicular
to death: a simple rosebud in the hair of a painted daughter

who will die later that night. In the backdrop, the moon galloping
like a prayer might—feral horse, immortal patch of sky in its wake.

Though most aren’t queer, I watch the soldiers die the queerest
death I know: anonymous, kneeled in a patch of dirt, wondering

what Heaven is like, if they’ll see it. Their horses, brothers—
humming like the Chevy I’d imagine a queer-basher might drive.

How the brake lights gallop, how the queer prayers dangle and snag
like wedding cans on a bumper through side-brush. Rifle-

mouthed, garotted—it’s easy to forget about soldier-mothers,
soldier-wives. Across Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina:

blown kisses from gone boys, years-old, rise like fog into the attic. Until
the windows can’t contain their pressure, and the mothers, the sisters—queer

boys, soldiers, is there a difference?—must unfasten them from their cheeks.