Belts and Bodies

That year I got to be an expert
at pulling the belts from the pants
of dead white soldiers.
I’d bring home ten, twenty in a night–
the women would divide them by firelight,
see if any would fit the men
or the children in their lives.
The rest they scrapped,
made into bootlaces and purse strings
ties for the shelters and,
when we were starving, stew.
It got to be a hobby of mine
to slip the belts from living mens’ pants,
hand them back with a grin.
It got to where they called me along–
I’d rifle through the pants
then slide the belts off last,
the bodies a comforting presence
the bodies cold and unchanging.
It got to be an intimate dance:
me leaning in close
going through pockets
smelling the meat of them
wondering what the next step might be
after their belts come off–
whether I would undress them fully, and
dance with them, and
who these men were before,
me wondering why they had no place
that they were going to.