The incoming mortar falls with a wavering whisper, growing louder - whirring, now buzzing - insistent. Men scramble, frantic, desperate for escape: Run, Stumble, Fall! then... FLASH, SLAM ! Dust leaps up, smoke appears everywhere. Staggering, numb, still-living ears ring as the echo roars away to the horizon. Survivors, feeble, muffled, check themselves for blood and missing limbs. The Museum of History in Raleigh; on display, a WWI helment with a shrapnel gash across the brow. An inch wide, four inches long. Punctured square on entry, the exit slash peels steel back in curls like long, metal shavings. The others have moved on, viewing looms and cotton gins; but - I am frozen on that helment, and wonder if that doughboy lived. My hands begin to shake, I grasp the railing, as an echo rolls away toward the horizon.


Copyright 1996 James M. Hopkins
Image: "Incoming", oil on canvas, J.M.Hopkins, 1992