Wednesday, November 11, 2009

That Gentle Feather

Today's offering is a bit longer than my usual, but it begins about 1939, and has a lot of ground to cover. If you don't mind, I'll just let the poem speak for itself:


He was a soldier again on that Decoration Day,
back into his Army uniform from World War I.
Shots from the honor guard’s rifles had echoed
through the hills, and now as wavering notes

from a bugle came drifting to us from the bluffs
high along the ridge, I noticed that his lips were 
quivering, eyes welling. I had never seen a man 
cry before, and I was too young to understand.

But I have never forgotten that day, and now
I think I know what he may have been crying 
about. He was feeling the loss of small-town 
buddies who had gone off to war with him, but 

returned as spent beings, their bodies gathered 
from shell-pocked battlefields, brought home
to be buried on those hills. He was surely crying 
for them, and for those gone in wars before;

likewise, for those who would go into the smoke 
of war then rising again in Europe. He might 
even have been crying for those who would pay
the price of engagement in Korea, in Vietnam, 

in a hundred wars in places he would never see, 
nor even dream of. He might have been crying, 
too, for victims of that war which would bring 
leaders of its factions all the way to a place near 

Dayton, Ohio, where the meadowlark sings 
unheard amid the buzz and roar of larger birds.
Here they would search for a way to peace, a way
to slough off the smell of war, end the killings,

finally live together in real peace, a dream that 
soldiers have dreamt for eons. He was crying 
not just for the costs of war, but crying as a child 
cries, over that thing so desirable, yet so elusive, 

like a downy feather - so soft, so light, so fragile
that even a small discordant breath has the power
to send it skittering - crying much as we do over 
the prospects of ever grasping that gentle feather. 

(originally published in McGregor Voice, November Peace Issue, 2009)

Today's word: peace

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