Achilles is being carried from the field.
Three-fourths covered by a thin green gown; one big
bare shoulder sticking out; his face ash-gray and ivory-pale.
His war is finished. They’re taking him home.
They have him in the bay across from me
on a gurney outside Radiology. IV bags suspended over his head
like toy Mylar balloons fastened to his arms by string.
Anyone can see he’s done.
It seems we are temporarily encamped
on the bank of that famous river that has run
through London and Detroit, Bangkok and Bagdad—
this Ganges down which a hundred million souls have gone
like candles flickering in mist.
Our brave companions here: the corn-rowed orderly from Birmingham;
the plump Filipina nurse; Myron who spends his check on Powerball;
the weeping relatives. They move among us whispering.
Achilles—his name is called at last—
is being wheeled now on his way
into the crypt-cold vault called Radiology.
They roll him past. Maybe I am the only one
who sees the six tall ghosts that walk on either side of him,
rhythmically striking their fists against their shields.
I want to say, Look, don’t pity him! His imagination is not dead!
Sideways, going by, he opens one of his gray eyes
to look at me, and raises two fingers in that salute
I am coming to recognize.
And then I am alone here,
the one to weep, and it is myself I weep for.