east of sorrow

Helen’s Tears

by Marc Hudson

We lay him down, we let him go,
his mother, his sister, and I,
into the wooden hull of his coffin
with its brass fittings, into the furrows
of the winter earth. We say good-bye.

Since then, no thaw:
Only sleet and wind and the mustering
of an army. Our son, like one of those gone
for a soldier to the Gulf, one of the myriad
terra cotta minions buried with the Emperor,
Ian Geoffrey Hudson, 19. Now the blind ones
pin a shroud over Guernica and parley of war,
now they posture, “Operation Shock and Awe.”
Hot metal will rain on Baghdad. A human dust
will rise and mingle with the red Tigris wind,
dust as fine as the snow that blows over Indiana today
will gather in clouds and refract the sunlight
over Benares. Countless particles will ride the jet streams
east over the Pacific, providing nuclei for rain to fall
on Olympic forests, into sword ferns and salal,
the cataracts of the Elwha and the Hoh,
and some few, perhaps, will soldier on over
into Iowa or Illinois or maybe as far as this watershed
of the Wabash, of Rock River, to fall like Helen’s tears
after the burning of Ilium, the death of Priam and his sons
dispersed into the world the molecules of sorrow
but falling that day as individual crystals of snow
on my son’s grave, making what is so unbearable
appear beautiful. Friend, fellow citizen,
war is the worst inhuman thing.
And burying your child, even in peace,
is like placing into a boat every little possession
you held dear, and pushing it into the breakers.

Reprinted from East of Sorrow, published by Red Mountain Press.

Marc Hudson is Professor Emeritus of English at Wabash.

East of Sorrow is available at the Wabash College Bookstore. Copies are also on sale at the Carnegie Museum in Crawfordsville and at Von’s Bookshop on Chauncey Hill in West Lafayette. The book can also be ordered online from its publisher, Red Mountain Press.