I wrote this poem last year. It still expresses what Memorial Day means to me better than anything I’ve written before or since.
So please pardon the repetition. And if you know a soldier, or someone who awaits a loved one’s return, or someone who knows that will never happen again . . . please give that person a little extra love today.
Somewhere today a young woman sits in a muddy blind, her uniform wet through.
She knows she needs to pay attention to what’s happening, that she has to distinguish between a clap of thunder and the burst of a gun.
But all she can do is think of her baby graduating from kindergarten back home . . . without her.
Somewhere today a boy reaches for an automatic with only one hand.
The wind blows dust into his teeth and eyes.
He manages to prop his weapon against a sand-filled sack, using the stump of his other arm—the one where the rebels sliced it off at the elbow—to keep the rifle steady.
Somewhere today a mother waits on the tarmac, watching the military plane land.
It bounces two times on the runway.
Her son would’ve laughed at that.
Through the blur of tired and salty tears, she sees them lift the unadorned casket.
Somewhere today a father stares at the last letter his daughter sent him.
He has memorized every word, read between every line so often it has merged with the next in a confused gray.
Three weeks and nothing.
Not a note, not an email, no text.
He looks to the blue sky and wonders where she is, if she’s all right.
Somewhere today a young woman is shot in a border town
– wrong place, wrong time –
the “collateral damage” of a drug war she’s never played a part in.
Somewhere today a group of young men claim a village for their tribe
kicking children’s toys aside in the abandoned huts of former friends.
Somewhere today war will blast dreams away
cut lives short
and make sorrows long.
we’ll have no need for this holiday.