The Late Unpleasantness

by Kimberly L. Becker



Whether myth or fact, the image is arresting:
wild pigs foraging on the dead who look
as though they just succumbed to somnolence,
lying restful but for the aspect of
inflatable dolls (apt anachronism)
bloated skin stretched tight with gas and fluid
as bodies get, ironically, on life support
where skin will split and start to weep and weep
we do over innumerable losses
and maybe the pigs did consume in their
quest for flesh portions of letters meant for
loved ones but that never were delivered
My dearest Samantha or a Bible
gnawed through to the Psalms yea though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death I
will fear no evil
rose from lips too weak
to speak aught else and yet it was a lie:
they did fear, mightily, and were alone,
and yet it was a lie they needed to
believe and surrender to their enemy,
not in other color, for their prayers were the same,
but the enemy of self that fights against
accepting reality of this mortal
coil against conviction of things not seen
All the battles, all the losses, different
only in scope and pitch and place and time
but the same sharp-hooved swine, that sure-snouted
devourer, that squealing marauder, that
foraging destroyer, that opportunist
whose efficiency clears fields—not so easy
to sweep mines from the mind, remembering
the lesser angels of our nature and how
we never got it right, not after years
of battle even when we’d make pilgrimage
to Gettysburg where you’d send us clambering up
some statue of a general to put sunglasses
on a stone-cold visage, later adding caption
to the photo: Who’s that behind those Foster
Grants? and it was funny in the way things
always were with you, avoiding painful truths
like when that bitch corrected me
with haughty Northern voice saying it was
not The War Between the States as I’d been
taught at school, but rather The Civil War
and I felt belittled even being little
and even though I now can see that she
was a mean drunk it still doesn’t change how
I internalized the wounds and how war
came to be against me and myself, de-
nying what I knew as truth to survive
So believe me when I say that years later
when I revisited Gettysburg, I
had another perspective entirely
and the dead seemed not to be dead after all
but still inhabiting these hills and none
of it was pleasant, none of it,
and all of it too late
Then there’s still the Civil War rifle in our family
got off Union enemy that my son hoists to his shoulder
with the ease of someone used to going into battle

About the Author

Kimberly L. Becker is author of Words Facing East and The Dividings as well as numerous journal and anthology publications, such as Drunken Boat, Indigenous Message on Water, Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits, and Bared. She has served as a mentor for PEN America’s Prison Writing Program and AWP’s Writer to Writer program. Visit her at


Civil War
Harvest of Death. Photo courtesy of