Tales of Old Soldier – Ben Crowley

The Bridge
Old Soldier comes to the bridge. It is broken.
Men pick up stones to fight.
Old Soldier remakes the bridge, shouting at them.
He throws stones into the water until the water is dammed and
they can cross to fight him.
He shouts at them to kill him if they dare.
He shouts at them to throw stones.
He shouts and they throw stones and he continues to build the

The Bath
I have a thick white granite hole into which I ladle blood, says
Old Soldier.
The blood ferments within a week. It is a lusty drink.
When the blood runs down the hill and collects into the bath,
Old Soldier stands as still as time. He believes in the blood.
I am the original man.
The original man.

The Cave
Old Soldier removes his armor.
He takes it to the Forbidden Realm, the humming womb.
I’ll protect no one! No! Not ever again!
Old Soldier bundles the armor.
Old Soldier cannot be an island unto himself, says Old Soldier.
Old Soldier hurls his armor inside.

The Keep
Old Soldier must have the wind and the rocks.
The wind went away. Then the rocks went away.
My progeny is too vast, Old Soldier laments.
Some of them terrible.
Old Soldier kneels atop the mountain and shoots every bird
from the sky.
There are still some circling. If only Old Soldier were a little
He climbs the trees and in the highest one stands at the very
Now he shoots the highest birds.
Dead, they have covered the mountain.

The Mound
Old Soldier hears a ticking heart.
The heart of one remaining bird.
He can hear it in the faces of the cliffs.
He can hear it from the hollows of the trees.
He buries the bird under a mound of rocks.
He builds the mound three times as high as Old Soldier.
Old Soldier, under the attack of life, prays to the sun.
The sun will not blink. Old Soldier will not blink.
The sun has neither eyes nor conscience.

The Crevice
Old Soldier has put all fingers inside every crevice of this
Until there was a crevice like the bone of a whale.
Old Soldier ran his hands up and down it.
It is like a bow left behind by a giant.
One end goes up toward the sun. One end goes up near the
There is no way Old Soldier could wield it.
But he can feel it, and he is grateful.

The House
The sign of the house says “Old Soldier.”
Old Soldier may not enter the house. The house is locked.
The house is full of swords.
That’s Rusted Blood he sees through the window. With him I
slew the Georgic army.
And there that’s King’s Bane, with him I slew the King of
There were more swords, all of which might have belonged to
Old Soldier.
But Old Soldier had been alive too long and could not remember.

The Tent
Old Soldier sits in the door of his tent.
Old Soldier asks the stars for one last breath.
Old Soldier holds that breath for a hundred years.

Ben Crowley is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is happy to get back
to writing because he has already paid a kidney to Deep Overstock and is
considering dishing out a finger and thumb. Ben used to sort books for the
Amazon warehouse, in our beautiful backcountry of western Pittsburgh.
Now he drives a truck, but he’s still selling books at whatever diner,
truckstop or seedy hotel he finds himself in.

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