honors flight to washington

Monday, July 11, 2011


yes it is early tuesday
and the before dawn darkness
and we are on pilgrimage
world war two vets for washington

where are my thoughts this dark hour
yes the parade in cincinnati
I was six maybe seven then
saw the civil war survivors
riding in the backs of limousines
too old to march one time more

now I wonder were their grandfathers
those who fought at yorktown
or served under john paul jones
on the good richard

the plane filling slowly
they board in their high seventies
some eighties and even a ninety here
oh with their walkers and wheelchairs
these time worn bone twisted
white haired relics of that frightful war
come gathering back to this plane
it seems from stopped time
from north africa iwo pearl harbor
normandy anzio okinawa
men and women I have never met
central illinois neighbors of mine


smiles and cordial greetings
strange lonesome moments
we have outlived our time it seems

old men where did our lives go
prolonged here with a box lunch breakfast
then sleeping on to washington

the dark night gauzy with clouds
landing in the district through rain
the looked for cherry tree blossoms
stripped bare by hours of high winds

it is so hard to remember
what happened yes there was
a bus ride to the ww two memorial
a great oval circle with all the states
registered on towering pillars
white granite stones a national henge
eagles lofting wreaths
for all commemorated here
the need to remember what they stood for
against ambition that would smother
what a free world cherished
my world and yours yes
and then off for the air space museum
the engines of hope and destruction there
the space capsule hardly more
than a backyard tree house
and the enola gay slender arrow
named for the pilot’s mother
poison tipped for wounds that were so long healing
a past lost in time a future set toward mars
what to say we change abandon try again


the women’s memorial how designed
no central entrance two doors
set far right and far left
a place of passage it may be
valor exhibited here
fliers army and navy nurses
spars waves waacs from north africa
up through anzio into normandy
wacs sent to the pacific islands
a hidden history here
and honored so late
yes only today finally


now to arlington in cold and wind
so many futures resting here
these orderly crosses honoring the dead
we did not see those three cherished graves
a president a candidate
a distinguished senator
and the memory of iwo shima
banner raised on surabachi yama
I saw it the size of a postage stamp
from the deck of an attack transport
as the whole fleet offshore cheered
three marines and a navy corpsman
defined in their lofty gesture
an emblem locked in my mind
that twenty eighth day of february
when night came and shrapnel stung my legs

but here now the marbled tomb
where the unknown soldier rests
the marine guard every movement
determined by the book
rifles shouldered every step precise
back and forth and forth and back
honoring this one lost veteran
entombed here for all who have no name
wherever they are

cold and windy this waning afternoon
old veterans we linger here
and it seems we have never been
anywhere else

Friday, July 1, 2011