Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

The troubled world can offer no award
To you who sleep beneath the chiseled stone.
You died because we handed you the sword,
And we are free because you sleep alone.

The tides of history well may change the cause,
And time may blunt the sharpness of the debt,
For sacrifice, a nation under laws
Is gathered here today, lest we forget.

--Robert A. Hall

I composed this poem while marching in the Fitchburg, MA Memorial Day Parade in 1975, then used it in my speech at the upper common.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Wall

He traces names, maneuvering the chair
against the slope. The panels stretch out black
and still. Each year he vows he’ll not be back,
but every bitter April finds him there.
The first few names of friends are low. But four
are cut up high, and he would need a leg
to stand and trace them. So he has to beg
for help from strangers innocent of war.

Some years ago he pushed his wheels to where
the leader lived. He’d stared across the lawn
beyond the bars—the tourists had all gone—
then cursed and spat upon the ground. A pair
of guards had turned away without a nod.
—You’d think that it would break the heart of God.

—© Robert A. Hall, 1998