Mary Borden was an American nurse serving four years at French evacuation hospitals on the Western Front. In 1929, she published “The Forbidden Zone,” a collection of writings that she called “fragments of a great confusion.” Some of the pieces were written during the war, and others after. Just over a hundred pages, the book was republished by Hesperus Press in 1980.
Borden was prone to poetic writing. She describes pain as a mistress, lying down with the men, taking them into her arms. I rolled my eyes at times. But it’s hard to dismiss the power of passages like this, for their evocative bitterness:
“There has been a harvest. Crops of men were cut down in the fields of France where they were growing. They were mown down with a scythe, gathered into bundles, were tossed about with pitchforks, pitchforked into wagons and transported great distances and flung into ditches and scattered by storms and gathered up again and at last brought here — what was left of them.”