My hand was clammy on the handle, my forefinger going back and forth
on the cold trigger to the tune of some old hymn I can’t remember the name of.
The sirens have been blaring for half an hour already, almost normal to our ears,
we could see the first planes in the distance like dark billows.
The first paratroopers started to jump, stretching out like kirigami men.
They were like the ones my daughter used to do, folding over many pages,
making a few choice cuts and stretching them out accordion like to dance
at our kitchen table. Hilda used to take the other end and they would wrap
the men around me like a garland until I too rose and danced with them.
That was three months ago. We got the order and commenced firing,
punching holes in the falling silhouettes, the sky felt like some canvas
we were painting, orange chards on black with plumes of grey pastel between.
Peter kept a steady supply of bullets, feeding the snake of ammunition into my gun,
I often wondered if the factories made these bullets as fast as we fired them off.
We watched the fleet of aircraft turn back and I took my hands away from the hot metal. They promised us that these guns wouldn’t overheat, but no one expected to fire this much.
Paul told us later that it was the biggest aerial assault ever, we murmured in appreciation, more out of not knowing how to respond to that. I recall Mr Adler telling my history class about the battle of Cannae, how Hannibal had enveloped the larger Roman army and annihilated them so completely. I imagine the sheer effort to kill so many with just swords, having to plunge in the blade to flesh, hearing another man’s last cry swipe out at me. I wipe down my gun and tidily stack the supplies in preparation for the next attack. Later we went out on patrol to see if any of the enemy had made it through. All we found were a dozen bodies hanging mangled in the trees like party streamers. One poor soul was twisted round in the branches in a grotesque mobius strip, his spine protruding from his gaping mouth. I retched on the ground before me, as if to complete some horrible sentence that demanded to be said.