Memorial Day
by Sean Taylor

The annual parade waddled through the streets of town today,
And as the flag, held high by the withering hands of local veterans,
Passed by me, I did not lower my head,
Or remove my cap,
Or fight back the annual tears,
Like the old men crowded around me.

I've seen the way my uncles puffed with pride
At the slightest remembrance of fallen comrades --
Nameless soldiers who served thousands of miles from them --
Watched as their eyes moistened,
Listened as their voices quavered,
Then gave out completely, in honor of someone they never knew.

But they did know, in the way that all old soldiers recognize each other,
Passing in a busy shopping mall,
Sharing a bench while grandchildren spin on the park merry-go-round;
There is a bond, they say, the bond of war,
That makes strangers friends, that makes soldiers brothers,
That makes nameless men heroes.

But what of the ones who grew up without the benefit of war,
In the terrible grip of peace,
Those who never had to kill to defend God and country,
Never grew to serve the colors of fireworks:
Red, white, blue, bursting in the sky each year,
A recurring reminder of their inaction?

Can the flag be more to them than an empty symbol?
A dyed rag we wave to begin a baseball game,
A song we sing a few times each year,
A sermon thundered from the city hall pulpit.
It has never cost them anything worth losing;
It has no glory in their memories.

No. I did not cry, or bow, or clutch my hat
In the wake as the flag passed.
Perhaps I should have pretended, let the old soldiers believe
That their world would continue, that their children understood.
But if they taught me anything, it is this:
You do not lie about the important things.

©1997 Sean Taylor