Grandfather has a face carved from granite. His eyes have seen too much, for they are endlessly vast, like the galactic depth of space. Deep set and small, they have walked through a valley of tears and seen the death of his generation. The massacres, the hate, the bombings, tumbling governments, he has seen the best of men torn asunder by barbarous hands, watched the blood of his comrades drunk by faces that haunt him. He walks amongst ghosts, and dreams of days when his eyes will no longer see, when his heart will no longer beat and the visions will cease. My grandfather's eyes are the eyes of a prophet of misfortune. He does not speak of what he has seen, and he may not remember it, but it refuses to release him. I could step into his eyes if not for the fear. Those eyes have hollowed out, but the stains of vengeance and terror hieroglyph the walls. If one were to venture in, the alienation, the suffocating darkness, the phantoms of dread would consume. My grandfather's eyes see through me, through the walls, between the atoms of my flesh, between the molecules that make up air. They see for miles and years into the future and back to the past, but they are never here. The now dissipates, for there is only what was and what will be.

      My grandfather's face is the face of war. Forged by death, tanned in hell, his face is relentless. Heavy brows and the feet of a thousand crows, a permanent scowl painted on his permachapped lips. He speaks in monosyllables, does all his talking with the smoke he breathes. Dad says he used to drink, that life was scary then. Says he stopped the day his generation finally died. My grandfather is the last of his kind. The last of a people buried too young, of faces forgotten too long. It has turned his blood black and filled his lungs with scorn. Every breath is a landmine, every pulse is poison.

      He knows he cannot die, for he has tried. Years were spent filling his casket, but his body never stopped and it will not, though every face he once knew decays in the cold ground. Not until he tells his story, the story of young men eaten alive by the tides of malevolence and trepidation, not until he releases the ghouls and monstrosities of his past, of his life, of his dream. My grandfather will not speak, will not eat, cannot sleep. He persists through stubbornness. He refuses to unleash the horrors of his life, the horrors of his past, back into the world for fear the leviathan of terror will rise once more to wash the world away. He carries the sins of the world, of the past and future, within him.

      His hands are cragged, constantly clutching the arms of his chair. Tobacco stained fingers, mountain ranges of blue veins pulsating from finger to elbow. Palms that have held last breaths, knuckles stained with lost but never forgotten blood.

      And it can all be seen in his eyes. The eyes that tear the soul from the body. A stare one regrets to meet and will never forget. My grandfather's eyes are brimming with emptiness, for that is all there is. A blackhole, a dead star, a past locked so deep it no longer exists.

Edward J Rathke wanders the world in search of adventure while masquerading as a poet and lover of the arts. In truth, he
wastes most hours making bad decisions and trying, desperately, to not die. More of his life and words may be found at


A grandfather is something I've never had the luxury of and usually something I think quite little about, but generational differences fascinate me and that's, in part, where this came from. War is the other part. War, in itself, is fascinating, but the real resonance comes from those who had to live in and through it. While watching a World War II documentary, these deep, dead eyes came to me and wouldn't leave till I put this down on paper.



Copyright 2009