The weapons instructor who taught me how to properly place an AT-4 on my shoulder told me that his people spoke in poetry.
“It’s an anti-tank weapon, Warrior,” he said. “Treat it like an untrustworthy friend—always keeping a strong hold on it, but touching it with light fingers.”
“I will, Chief,” I said, and watched his poetry speaking lips tighten into a line that couldn’t hide the mirth crinkling his eyes. He hated when I called him Chief, so I did it every time he called me Warrior, and not by my name. “Will I feel the flash on my back? After I fire it?”
“War is hot, Girl Warrior, full of recoils and burns. Just like raising a child,” he said, “it leaves the mother cracked and stretched and changed and scarred.”
“Reading does the same for the mind, Chief.” Remembering what he said about his people, I added, “But the scars left by stories are poetic tattoos.”
He said nothing for a long while. Not even after he removed the practice AT-4 from my shoulder and placed it back on the weapons rack. Then he gave me one of his deep amber-eyed looks, and said, “What have you been reading, Word Eating Warrior?”
“One Hundred Years of Solitude, Poetry Speaking Chief. It’s about—”
“I’ve read Márquez,” he said. “What’s your favorite part? The war between Aureliano Buendia and Úrsula Iguarán, I bet.”
I shook my head. “I love how Márquez portrays Remedios the Beauty. The woman is clearly mad, but he decides to write that she ‘was not a creature of this world.’ He didn’t write lies. He just made madness beautiful, even desirable and uplifting. He plucked Remedios out of the dirt. And she ascended.”
Chief smiled, an enormous smile full of gums and teeth too white for his dark-honeyed complexion. “A Caribe Warrior who sees beauty in the lunacy of another. I wonder if you’ll find poetry in war.”
“I don’t,” I said, leaving the classroom without looking at Chief’s face.
Process Note: Sanaa, sweet mistress of Prompt Nights, invited us to write a poem or prose piece inspired by our favorite book or one of our favorite quotes. I chose to repost this tale, birthed out of the following passage, from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude:
“Remedios the Beauty was not a creature of this world… She reached twenty… wandering naked through the house because her nature rejected all manner of convention…
Remedios the Beauty began to rise… abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o’clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her.”
– AT-4: an 84-mm unguided, portable, single-shot recoilless smoothbore weapon.
– Caribe: Spanish word for Caribbean and spicy/hot, another word for piranha; its variation, Carib, refers to a fierce indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.
* First published in 2014. I clipped a word or two… aside from that, it remains unchanged.
“Close”, by Martin Stranka