They Will Sew the Blue Sail

Old Wars | Caryl Pagel

You are trying to remember how

it happened      You are trying to

remember these events in a sensible

order      The narrator you think met

the old woman on a train

She had been to war or

at least you think you recall

reading that she said she had

The story started on the train

The narrator in this case was

mostly incidental      The narrator in this

case was made to listen patiently

and account for       The woman’s tale

you recall was too strange to

be told straight      You needed to

hear it from a distance       From

another mouth or source      The narrator

met the woman on a train

She had been to war      The

story was about the woman and

her experiences at war or more

precisely in it as a victim

and a corpse and someone who

was marched straight to and through

the brink of death—who gazed

deep into death’s vile and wintry

irises—before saving the crowd

of innocent people she had been

marching with       They were on the

side of the road      You remember

this detail      They were on a

dusty black road being marched to

death and you know this because

the narrator is delivering this information

within a story via another story—

a story told by the old

woman who may or may not

have existed whom he may or

may not have met on a

train who may or may not

but most likely was a part

of the war       She was not

a hero       She must have been

a hero you think for having

protected all of those people for

sacrificing her own soul her own

hands her own fragile sense of

self and yet there are no

heroes here       Not the patient

narrator       Not you for trying to

remember       Not even the woman who

told the story for war knows

no heroes and makes a fool

of every witness which—right now—

through memory—is both you and

this incidental narrator and whomever you

are telling the story to      You

are trying to remember how it

happened       There was a woman on

a train       This woman told a

story not to you but you

read the story that she told

from the narrator’s point of view

and now you know it       How

she abandoned her own consciousness to

swap bodies with the officer      She

parted with her own old heart

She left her mind behind      She

became a monster and a master

and through this brave and magical

transformation was able to save a

small population of souls or so

she said that day to the

one you know as her train mate