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Poem: "Memento Mori" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Memento Mori"

This poem came out of the September 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by technoshaman.  It also fills the "memories" square in my card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the series An Army of One.

Memento Mori

It began as an accident, a junk pile created
when the Minotaur salvaged Orion materials
for Router to use as barter with Carinan contacts --
anything with a serial number had value --
in hopes of procuring supplies for their survival.

What remained were scraps
and tatters of battered starships,
hull plates with holes blown through them,
expended shell casings, melted laser cannons,
things used up and thrown away as worthless,
even in the eyes of scavengers.

The heap of debris made him uneasy
and so the Minotaur began to organize it,
fitting the pieces together into a crude tower
and welding them in place with raw metal.

Router saw it over his shoulder once
while they were communicating,
and sent him a box of remnants,
Carinan rank patches damaged in shipping
and ruined uniforms removed from soldiers
who had later died of their wounds.

The Minotaur added them to the mass,
welding garments in place by the pins of their medals
or riveting the ragged patches through the corners,
other parts left to flap free like the raiment of ghosts.

Word got around, slowly but surely,
and more people wanted to see it,
so the Minotaur shared images.

Others sent items to include,
fragments and trophies and things
from former homes they wished to release.
These were things the war had won and lost
for them, cast on the trash-heap of history.

This was the memorial
that they made from what they had.

There was nothing of beauty in it,
or elegance, or valor.
It held only the ugliness of war,
brutal in its honesty,
metal bones and cloth memories
of what had been ventured and forfeited.
It was not symbolic, merely real.

For the people of the Lacuna,
the commemoration was not in the materials
but in the spaces that lay between them
and the holes where a hurt hullplate
starfished away from an impact site.

It was this emptiness which they made
their monument to mortality.

* * *

Memento mori  means roughly "Remember that you are mortal," and refers to art and monuments reflecting imagery of death.

War memorials mark victories or deaths in combat.  They tend to be solemn, stately, dignified affairs such as those of World War I.  Some modern ones are more interactive.  Explore theories of design and meaning in war memorials.  The one in this poem, of course, is none of that: inadvertent in beginning, hideous in appearance, literal in construction.  But I think it still has its roots in what has gone before in monumental architecture.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: September 7th, 2013 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)
And one day veterans from both original sides may want to come and see it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 7th, 2013 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)


All things are possible. I think that would have to be a long time in the future, though.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 8th, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

So are oopses.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 7th, 2013 08:49 am (UTC) (Link)


All things are possible. I think that would have to be a long time in the future, though.
4 comments or Leave a comment