Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

In Belgium,
in the cemetery of Saint-Symphorien,
the first and last soldiers
killed in the war to end all wars
are buried just seven yards apart.
In between lie the other 8 million.

Today, with flags flapping,
a parade of thanks.

For all those good citizens of good aim
over the last one hundred years,
who have continued the march

of cemeteries across rolling hills and
high plains, river deltas
and mountains,
from Lyons to Fargo,
Tokyo to Bombay, Ankara to Cairo,
Florence to Munich, Barcelona
to Manchester.

For those battalions of
lucky soldiers found with face
enough to be matched to names.

Their graves first awash
in praise, prayers, and peonies,
tears, roses and daisies,
when the dirt was still loose
and slippery and hard
to walk on in Sunday shoes.

Then flowers laid twice yearly with
nieces or nephews jumping from stone to stone.
Then plastic flowers faded in the sun
like old color photos of picnics
and baptisms, weddings and leavings.
Then the creep of ivy,
that last visitor,
until even the broken stones
forget.

Then the patient dead,
listening still for the footsteps
of the promised medic,
whispering to themselves:
“I remember. I
remember.”



R.

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