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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 1, March 2015

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James Croteau
Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA


Shiloh

My first glimpse of the battlefield was through the windshield of our high school band conductor's immaculate silver Buick. Corrective lenses can't sharpen the sight across forty years, but I do have an image—perfectly manicured rolling green fields extending out as far I can see and a rambling wooden fence, rendered miniature by distance. Twenty-three thousand boys, close to the age I was then, once lay there in crumpled stacks.

When I was young, permission slips had no place in an all-boys Catholic high school—all I had to do was ask my mother. I remember her exact words. I guess so, I've heard he's a good man. I suppose all she needed to know was that he taught ethics to the Protestant and Jewish boys. I was Catholic and tone deaf, so I didn't know him well.

I took a deep breath of Shiloh air when I stepped free of his car. There had been some kind of odor in that closed space, faintly like the t-shirt wadded under my bed, or my uncle's bathroom where several bottles of milk of magnesia were always on the shelf above the toilet. But, no, not really like those things, the odor wasn't that clear or sharp, it was more like the sour smell of cigarettes successfully removed.

Since none of the other guys seemed to notice, I convinced myself I was being too sensitive again. Back then, adolescent Catholic boys had no reference point for the unimaginable. And I certainly didn't know then that the sense of smell is strongest when you're young.

Green fields
thick with the unseen
bodies of boys

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