When we sleep under wet canvas, when we sleep at all, I dream of clean cotton sheets. They are a fiction, I suppose; nothing is clean, or ever has been. It is almost beyond memory to remember such things, even in dreams.
The tastable, breathable air is layered with mildew and the blood-stench of los muertos. I have seen men’s hands hacked off for the theft of a small spoiled cabbage or a spool of thread to stitch their children’s wounds. A god who allows such things does not approve of clean cotton sheets. Even so, a god who does allow these things must approve of me, for I still submit to these corruptions.
In my appetite for sleep, I try to remember an extraordinary woman who can calm me, but there are none (or so I recall). My mother, I suppose, or a grandmère who once fed me soup and sang me to sleep. I have known extraordinary men, of course, and I have known terrible men. Sometimes they are the same man, squatting in a field, picking the pockets of their spilled comrades, or tipping their canteens to the blistered tongues of the dying. Some men are proud of their cruelty, but most are hollow-eyed boys who swallow the last of their boyhood as they watch punctured guts drip from their bayonets.
We keep our women safe in the muddy photographs we tuck away in our boots, and imagine the perfumed letters they will one day write us. These things sooth us between the gray silences. If these women knew us now, what we have become, they would hide themselves in sunlight, where we cannot see them. We do not speak to each other of the things we have done, because we might reconsider our souls, and repent to a more thoughtful god. These fields are stained with the blood of too many regretful men.
I wonder about the clean things I have forgotten, and I wonder if they are forgotten at all, and not just made up things. Then I try to pick up all the scattered sleep I have lost, and watch the dark fields fold in around me.