THE BALLAD OF SOLDIER AXIMANDER • Elvis Bego

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I know you know your world will end. Before the world will have seen its last, the gods, if you can believe such things, will grow athirst. The seas will rage and what the seas will not have drowned, men will break with their hands. Cities will be vast ruined catacombs areek with rancid flesh. Our soldier Aximander will lose his company of men. And the gods will take his Chloe before they take his men. Oh, hapless Aximander.

When Aximander will be called to lay siege to other parts, people will say that no one ever had the luck of Aximander. Aximander will watch with his own eyes the last of the earth, they’ll say in jest, even before they will know they themselves lived so near the end. And then, as they will stand in rain about to charge the last citadel, he will receive word from her grief-stricken mother that his Chloe has been taken, that she has been turned into a doe and loosed into the moors of Eden. And one by one the soldiers will fall and all but he will lie breathless on the wet ground. And he will watch and curse his good luck. And if Chloe can no longer be kissed, he’ll say, he might as well be dead himself. There will be no enemy to strike him down. Oh, hapless Aximander.

And Aximander will stride across the burnt plains. Not a ray of sun will fall through the ash cloud onto his callused hands. Not an eye of friend or enemy will see him be in this world. And he will eat walnuts and dried cranberries and sooty vines. And he will sleep by the stumps of dead trees, among sluggish ants. And he will look at bloodied pictures of Chloe and wish that he were blind. Oh, hapless Aximander.

Aximander will grow weak and dig a grave with his hands. And he will lie down to sleep in the hole. The head of a doe will then loom in the dark firmament. And it will lower its nose in affection. And he will feed her his last latundan bananas and think that he is happy. And that will be that. Oh, hapless Aximander.

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elvis-begoBorn in Bosnia, Elvis Bego was turned into a refugee at the age of twelve, and now lives in Copenhagen. His work can be found now or soon in Agni, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review Online, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.

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