Artwork © Sketchman Boris


Canto X
A War Papyrus

And of that fellow patient,
The Ukrainian comrade,
Fairly unscathed,
Except for the mind,
Whatever smidgen of
Compassion for his plight
Those of us in this state might have
Smudged in hate
By the perennial wailing
From his cot–the stench of the place,
Like vomit half – concealed, half – subsumed
By inordinate ammonia,
The fetid conflation,
Imagined as emanating from his bed
Because of those horrific and egregious sounds,

Not that his sounds have not been my sounds;
And with his moans, and the
Magnification of our misery,
It is myself
Reflected and objectified.
The darkness, the cold
The sleet hitting the walls,
Hitting the tarp
Of metal sheeting, he claims,
He arrogates–only he arrogates hail as his hell,
As an attack on him, an attack of
Spirits on him singularly. He would be
More sensible
Were he imbibing
Spirits instead of
Fabricating them
–The epiphany now
Coming to me
That all supernatural
Is a flaw of logic,
A rupture of conscience,

As I well would know
Before, during, and following
The following of
The occasional
Drunk Russian soldier
Down streets and alleyways,
Backways, and in every way,
For that perfect moment
When unseen I could
Slit one–slit his fucking throat and
Watch him die
For the polytechnic display
Of his red into my black,
For the thrill
Boys get out of
Pulling apart crawdads,
Able to sense the last pull required
On the rubber band
On the corpus of
A living organism that
Is the breaking point
In which life becomes death unalterable,
For the retribution
Of innocence slaughtered
And these Russian boys
Numbing themselves
In alcohol so as
To do the perfunctory moves
That marauding, pillaging soldiers do
And their peremptory demands
That our women
Fill their cracks with them
Are innocents, in some respects, too.

Although my hand
Has grabbed
The broken strap of an old gurney
Ready to whip the wailer to submission
Or give him something
Real to wail about
That would be intense
Enough to put him to sleep
I hesitate as his ghosts
Were once my ghosts–
Flowing out of
Brain aneurisms of
Supernatural, a misnomer,
For a fecklessness
A lacerated conscience bleeding–
And of conscience
A sense that even
If might makes right
The mightiest too is smashed
In the hands of fate.

A bus–call it
The Christmas bus– has arrived
To take away the “recovered”
To some hospice or foster care or another
In Western Ukraine–
In a month I am told
I too will be loaded off
They do not say–
Meanwhile boys from Russia
As boys from Ukraine
Are loaded into busses,
Wave and kiss their goodbyes
Through windowed barricades, and
The Napes of their
Hirsute, bristled necks
Change into something
Silvery and diaphanous, for
That which seems so real
Is not so real at all
And one might say
A spectre–human
No more concrete
Than a spectre


Steven David Justin Sills is a literary writer living in Bangkok Thailand

Sketchman Boris is a cartoonist who does comic strips and aspires to create stories and publish more books than what he has published so far.