26 May 2013

Row on Row

The gravel driveways
Roll between
The stands of lawn
Studded with upright stone slabs,
White wooden crosses,
And pocket-sized pennants.

A Veteran cemetery.

Flower-laden or not,
No marker stands alone
The Stars and Stripes
Stand sentry
Near each one.

Not one name is forgotten

Regardless of how much
Or how little
It was considered
Or will be noted

They are all remembered,
These members of a sacred, selfless


A stillness settles
In the hearts of any
Who pause to
Look up,
Out the window,
And see.

It settles on mine,
Wind-ratted and hot as I am
In the back of a crowded car
With no air conditioning.

I look out
And take note
Of what I am passing
And feel a small something
Spark in recognition
Of the flags,
The stones,
And the grass as it does its work.

I have no connection
With the names
On any marker here.

But they do.

Pods of people,
Gatherings of two, three, six
Who cluster together,
Some around this grave,
Some around that one. 
Canes and babies,
Couples and older,
Single citizens,
I see them all as our car passes.

They walk haltingly
Between the markers.
They look down,
Their attention fixed
On a small, squared stone.
Some hold hands as they look;
Others make passing remarks to each other. 
Yet others just stare downward.

Some smiles; more solemnity.
Families and friends,
Here not just to remember
But to remind 
That they are loved still
And not forgotten.

Though no more birthdays
Will be celebrated,
Serves much the same purpose,

And for a time, today,
The names on the markers
Receive the undivided attention
Of those who are
Their loved ones.

I do not know, but they remember here,
The color of hair and eyes,
The timbre of the laugh,
Favorite hobbies and acts of kindness,
And then,
That greater act,
The giving of themselves
To God and country
That sealed their fate.

They and I are separated 
By not only
A car window.

By so much more.

I watch the flags,
The rows and columns
Of graves,
The faces of the people
Who have come
To pay homage
To heroes
And brothers
And fathers,
And friends.


Who belonged
To the names
On these markers
Are not just names
And memories
To them.

They seem not to notice the heat,
The wind,
The others gathering
In sundry spots
Around the place.

And in my heart
I notice,
And memorialize,
And forget the heat too
Because I see
Something more important,

The other part 
Of this holiday—

The eyes that still see,
The hearts that still beat
And must beat a lifetime
Those who lie
Beneath the grass,
The markers,
The flags.

And in me something kindles
In remembrance of,
Admiration for,
These heroes,
Prone and standing,

Those who died for the flag,
And those who live without them now
And exert a different kind
Of patriotism

All of whom I do not know,
And all of whom I newly admire
And will remember.

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