Friday, September 15, 2000

Pilgrimage to Arlington

In the land of the Potomac,

In the white heat of August,

She stands before the bank of vaults

Stroking to and fro, in tender ritual,

The face of the drawer where his ashes lie.

The metal, cold and cruel,          

Numbs her fingers.


He had been her kin, but more

Her husband's in friendship than hers.

Yet they had had fun, the three of them.

Smart as he himself was, he thought her smart,

Which no others on his side of the family did.

He used to ask her advise on which books to read.

She liked him for that.

Some of his siblings, in religious abhorrence,

Called it a coward's act.  But he was no coward.

He had proven that in the North African Campaign.

Had he chosen pills, it would have been easier. 

    Instead, he shot a gun inside his mouth and

Left a note with one request:  a soldier's interment.

His country owed him that right.

Silent now, with memories of him,

She neither weeps nor utter prayers,

Nor does she rebuke him for his deed.

She had come for closure, but finds instead

That she will grieve forever that he died all alone,

Consumed with an anguish he never revealed.

And she forgives him for it at last.