May 29, 2023

4 Poems to Explore Compassion on Memorial Day.

May the fallen rest in peace.

Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and I’ve placed the flag in its stanchion on the pillar by the front door.

We’ll decorate a cake with whipped cream, Red Vines, and blueberries. But my family has no war fallen, nor any veterans, except one dear uncle who served a year in Vietnam. He arrived in this country at the age of nine, then at 18 shipped out to Asia, returning safely to The Bronx, marrying his sweetheart.

Fighting for democracy is a complicated vocation, fraught with duplicity and betrayals, innocence lost. Life journeys often include such twists for any of us. Their journey included death, far from home.

The first poem is truly beautiful. I hope you click the link to read the whole thing.

1. “Memorial for the War Dead,” by Yehuda Amichai

“Memorial day for the war dead. Add now

the grief of all your losses to their grief,

even of a woman that has left you. Mix

sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,

which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning

on one day for easy, convenient memory.”

2. “The Man He Killed,” by Thomas Hardy

This poem is a gentle meditation on how soldiers face an enemy, objectifying him, but under everyday circumstances could be friendly.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!

You shoot a fellow down

You’d treat if met where any bar is,

Or help to half-a-crown.”

3. “In Distrust of Merits,” by Marianne Moore

The poet addresses the predicament of those who fight and wonders if war could be lessened by deeper understanding of its causes.

“the fight. The world’s an orphan’s home. Shall
we never have peace without sorrow?
without pleas of the dying for
help that won’t come? O
quiet form upon the dust, I cannot
look and yet I must. If these great patient
dyings — all these agonies
and wound bearings and blood shed —
can teach us how to live, these
dyings were not wasted.”

4. “It is time for all the heroes to go home,” by William Stafford

This poem reminds us, the living, of what is important, the sweetness of common existence.

“It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any, time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.”

Some classic poetry on war glories and loss.


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