One of my erstwhile friends grew poppies in his backyard as part of an experiment in making his own opiates. He is a weird, weird dude. Hence the “erstwhile”.
Opium does come from poppies; other, stronger painkillers have come from opium thanks to science. I’ve had enough opiates in this lifetime to know full well the numbing quiet that results from them. It’s difficult to explain the exact effect but I would say the best way to understand the blessing of opiates is to know that they produce an absolute quiet after the loud turmoil of pain. A stillness after the hurricane. A chance to rest your soul while the body repairs.
In Flanders Field the poppies grow, between the crosses row on row.
Is there a better flower than these permanent bloodstains to decorate the graves of boys who died as valiant men? Red as all that blood and death-black at the center, a poppy stands as Earth’s token to peace, stillness and repair. A poppy is a piece of sleep distillable. A reminder of all the pain in the past and a promise of the hard-won silence of cease-fire.
There is always war, with us like poverty and hunger to testify to the human condition. Some wars seem more justifiable than others and yet for every war fought there are men who gather there. Who either go because they believed in their heart that the cause was right or because they were told to show up. In either case they do what so many of us do not. They face the hardest thing head on and grapple with death. They die to make men free. Firemen rush into burning buildings; soldiers rush into the burning world.
Not every man who fights dies on the battlefield. Some of them live to bring the wars’ ghosts home. They page through those recollections in the lingering small hours of earliest mourning and look back on fire and gunsmoke and the relentless din of unrestrained anger. They carry on in whatever way they can, even as parts of them lie between the crosses row on row, poppies waving above them.