Memorial Day



As I remember when a small boy,  Memorial Day was a rather solemn affair in the mid land small town where my parents landed just after the war ended. My grandparents lived there and I grew up among cowboys, ranch hands, farmers, and shop keepers who made animate by their proud Americanism, gave expression to the homespun brilliant illustrations of the likes of Norman Rockwell. War heroes like my dad, returned forever changed by the horrors and carnage of war that they had experienced to re-enter the peaceful embrace of the American Dream an exceptionalism to re-build lives.

The day before Memorial celebrations the family went to the acre or so of the cemetery devoted to their ‘kin.’ The men mowed with tractors. The women washed and scrubbed tombstones, remembering history or gossiping about that old so and so and his Korean bride, or that old drunk, Mrs “whoosie’ who always smelled like vanilla and whose son was put in juvie for pasting his abusive father in the kisser for slugging his wife.  So it went , the detailing of angels and sinners, the brave and worthy and the litany for the damaged who were thought to be slackers and  suitable for criticism because when they went to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they had no feet.

What I remember most was the wheelbarrows of beautiful, fragrant cut flowers that the women collected and distributed for each grave, even those of the slackers. Later, all would gather in my grandmother’s auditorium of a living-room and sit at long tables groaning from the abundance of farm life  produce: Hams, beef roasts, roast chicken, vegetables, stuffed eggs, pickles (I I love the watermelon pickles best), home made breads, rolls and home churned butter. The desserts were stupendous: Custards, pies, cakes, fudge and a plethora of sweet delicious treats. The kids, like me, sat at card-tables and had more fun. Later ,the women cleaned, washed and stored away the remains of the day, while the men lay about the expanse of carpet like Manatees napping in the sun. The more alert watched sports on the town’s only TV and we kids went playing among the lilacs and peony gardens. Grandmother’s garden peacocks shrieked  out warnings at all the commotion as they feathered out their beautiful fans of alarm.

As I grew older and now look back on those days from nearly three quarters of a century I sigh for the loss of those innocent days and exalt that having never lived in a age where war was absent, wisdom has brought a kind-of peace. I mourn for those sturdy heroes, those ordinary men and women, freedom fighters and underground warriors, who gave their lives in belief of justice, democracy and the certainty of cause. Life is precious, no matter the delusions and propaganda that creates the horrors of a massive spectacle of death’

I mourn for the millions upon millions of innocent children, infants, parents, relatives, men, women, grandparents and targeted civilians, who have perished and continue to perish in the onslaught of righteous killings of war. I particularly mourn the walking wounded and homeless soldiers whose lives were for ever ruined as comprehension of the true nature of war and its evil duties impose on the human spirit…..the brokenness we refuse to see or ignore when, ‘Will work for food’ assails our high minded American sensibilities:

Remember us

Walking in crunching snow

Over frozen grass,


In deeper, warmer spring.

Remember us

When bulbs sprout

Lilacs intoxicate and peonies face full

Perfumed sweet and with heaven’s upbeat season

When we walk the air above the ground,

But then awake

We the perceivers, tellers and rememberers cannot escape

The blood-soaked dream no spring can bloom

In a sandy hell, a broken door,

A murdered child’s room

We are lost to the furies

Of bearded sons killing


Shrouded daughters mourning

The absence of a different God.


Vetting America: The Street

Down the alley

Staring at the flames

A trash fire burns

In an old oil drum

Invisibles swarm

Keep’un warm.

Sweet home


Land of the free.

Your purple hearts

Are pushing shopping carts

To the end of a hero’s start.

Warmed on a grate,

Sleeping on cold concrete,

Down so low

The once elite

Are soldiers ya know

For God and Country.

Lost in plain sight

The invisible fate

Morning, noon and night.

Day, week, month and year,

The shelter rounds do make.

Or not.

Hear the silence of misery!

Look at it! Damn it.

Feet too long for the paper box.

A nightmare and glory,

This paradox.

Your hero’s welcome.

Crack, —-the rush

In grimy blight.

Or a hundred-proof pint

To take the night.

Wraith soldiers never forget

At dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hail.

On cardboard skids:

“Will work for food.”

“God Bless,”

“Please help,”

In toothless grin

Reeking of rot gut gin.

In doorways, on piss soaked ground,

Under highway passes

Under bridges

Hiding in tangled brush–

Found: The forgotten

Soldier ghosts of America.

Homeless and the brave,

In the land that they loved,

Do and die,

With blood in the lie.

God Bless America

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1 Response to Memorial Day

  1. Emmers says:

    So true – so we’ll said M.

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