Word got around: Bring the dead back to us
and you will be forgiven. Sun setting
on a squadron of barefoot boys towing
one more.
Blessed with dust. Rosy. Uniform
shredding. Broken legs in a split. The boys
level their gazes at me through the glass
of the backseat. The smallest boy curling
the rope like a leash. Looped around the neck
of a man like me. It’s so difficult
to describe, that scene.
As a photograph
it would’ve been memorable, believe me,
it would’ve won prizes! But people talk
of evil, I’m not a religious man,
never liked to use the word, but I saw
my face photographed in those boys’ eyes. Wind
your window down, Paul. They want you to take
their picture.
No thanks, I told the driver
—drive home.

PAUL: Come to Granville Island,
DAN: this underpass
of food markets, arts & crafts and boutique
shoppes, facials and manicures and psychics
in the muddle of a mystically damp
Vancouver winter.
PAUL: Where I live. Outside
the city, to be accurate.
DAN: I live
in Hollywood. Or near the coast, to be
PAUL: We can just hang out drinking
coffee, beer, wine. Vodka.
DAN: I’m recording
our conversation through the polar fleece
of my pocket,
PAUL: or maybe this is one
you forgot to record?
DAN: I can’t find it
on my phone, that’s true.
PAUL: Because I forget
everything these days! Except everything
I can’t.
DAN: Because Paul is home from the war
in Syria.
PAUL: So many kids salvaged,
DAN: he says,
PAUL: from shipwrecked concrete. Some dead, some
dazzled and howling like birth. How could I
have helped?
DAN: I’m reminded of the one hand
he was born without.
PAUL: I need a new bag,
DAN: he says,
PAUL: that won’t look like a purse. Can you
help me?
DAN: He has a boyish helplessness
that disarms:
PAUL: Let’s go get gyros. You like
shawarma, Dan?
DAN: Which is precisely when
he tends to let slip these anecdotes like
they’re meaningless.
PAUL: That way you get to feel
you’ve salvaged something, too.
DAN: Like this memory
of some boys in Mogadishu hauling
their corpse of a soldier—
PAUL: They were evil,
DAN: he says,
PAUL: Saw it in their eyes. Or rather
couldn’t see its opposite. But can you
DAN: And I think—
PAUL: You think—
DAN: I know
what he really means.
PAUL: Though perhaps, again,
you’re being romantic.
DAN: As a seagull
slips out of the wind and snatches a slice
of my gyro—
PAUL: I remember now, mine
was a fish sandwich, Dan—!
DAN: And we forget
what we’re saying, laughing so hard from both
fear and surprise.