Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Memories

I remember youthful excitement as the honor guard fired their salute, and, often before they had left, scrambling, along with peers, to grab a spent shell or three as a souvenir. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, cousins, sibling gathered to pay respect to those who had died protecting us, or had passed away since serving in the last war or police action, while some of us too young and dumb to have our draft cards yet looked for fun where we could find it. Michael Anania reminds me what Memorial Day was like in my family of origin. Have yours been like his?

trillium, In Memoriam
trillium, In Memoriam                      © harrington

Memorial Day

By Michael Anania 
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar—
a willow tree by a curving roadway   
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;

damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,   
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored   
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;

such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down   
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair   
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.

We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy   
regarding the precise enactments of their own   
gesturing. And among the women there will be   
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.

The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances—sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed   
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,   
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.

It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,   
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way   
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.

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