Sudden Death

by Sonya Taaffe


I fell asleep in the sky
and woke at a quarter to Armistice
with a tongue thick as poppies
and a head that never heard of reveille,
smashed as a bullet, spent as a watch,
a sleepy-eyed sharpshooter
saluting the cast-off confetti of the big parade.
I drank and dreamed,
dreamed of drinking
while the martinis went round at Claridge's
and the bulls at the Praça de Touros
and the girl who ran faster in red shoes
swung past me like an eccentric planet
I could not remember the night without.
I stopped dreaming
when I found the gun in my hands
and no one's watch chiming to wake me
at twenty thousand feet,
the enemy crumpling far beneath me
and the wind in my ears screaming like a crowd
and I was cold, clear-headed, steady
and regret-free,
leaving the way clear for my comrades
as I disappeared into the dark.

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Sonya Taaffe's short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Ghost Signs (Aqueduct Press), A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and in various anthologies including The Humanity of Monsters, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, and Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and two cats.

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