Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 11, 2012

A Special Poem for Veteran’s Day

One of my mentors in the art of writing poetry and prose, the late Anne Carroll George, wrote a collection of poems called Some of it is True.  That title serves this poem. The emotions are more real than the exact events. The military bugle call, To the Colors, is played at the lowering of the flag during the Retreat ceremony in the evenings. The music is accorded all the same courtesies and honors as The National Anthem.

           TO THE COLORS

1

Judy waltzed so lightly

she seemed only a warmth

in the crook of the arm,

dancing at the Military Ball,

smiling over my braided epaulets, at Felix,

dancing with my date.

Now in barely two years, this thick fresh clay

drags her feet,

each step heavier than the last,

and her small hand weighs on my shoulder

like that of an old, lame woman

each foot searching cold ground

for stability.

Once under the edge of a canopy tent,

we sit in the front row of steel folding chairs.

The chaplain says the same words,

again.

Just ahead,

-constantly in sight,

the flag-draped coffin hangs suspended,

surrounded by humps of artificial grass

hiding exposed dirt-

but its smell clogs each breath.

2

Another funeral I watched,

at greater distance,

moved by wagon down a street in Saigon;

led by hired mourners wailing as loudly as relatives,

in unison with a one-stringed violin.

All the living dressed in white.

My companion, born to those customs

said that even the colors were different,

in Vietnam,

white was the color of death.

3

Precision volleys of rifle fire

slash chill air

signaling the trumpet.

Crisp-stepping honor guards salute

and begin triangle-folding the colors.

The last notes of Taps shimmer

then disappear,

tucked away in a final fold

below the stars.

The red, I had always been told,

symbolized patriot’s blood:

 yes.

Blue for fidelity,

yes.

But the white stripes that shrouded the coffin

cannot hold their symbol,

the beauty I once knew.

-These are Asian white.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for this, too.

  2. Damn, boy! You are good with words!

    • Thank you, my Friend. Your comment means a lot!


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