Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 26, 2014

A Final Poem for Memorial Day 2014

Some of this poem is autobiographical, some imagined.  All of it is sincere respect for our fallen warriors. Remember:  To the Colors is a bugle call rendering honor to the nation. It is played when the National Colors, our flag, is being lowered for the day.

 

**********************

TO THE COLORS

 

1

She waltzed so lightly

like only a warmth

in the crook of the arm,

at the college Military Ball,

smiling over braided epaulets, at her love,

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,

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,

and 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:

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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