Soldiers Washing (1927)
after the painting by Stanley Spencer
Even washing is a task, in war and daily life. The warm and pour, the fresh linen, the hourglass of soap in its melt telling us how our tired flesh gleams to fiction renewal. Time is at war. We are meant to lose that we may grasp what we know: the waste of passioned effort. The soldier nearest to us dunks his face in the bowl, a murky foretaste of baptismal death. This halo we discover from which he’ll surely rise, suspender cords rhyming the sink. Next to him another wrings the towel and turns his head toward Bellona. Not incongruous. The patroness, too, of the trench of days and the hearth’s duress.
Copyright © 2017 Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.