#113

October 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

I, the writer
Could not give it a word
Could not tag it with a definition, assign it an emotion –
but it smelled like lilacs and chlorine
Felt like the hard edge
Where shiny black granite meets concrete
And this city is covered in it

I, the emotional
Studied it academically
Aesthetically, with dry
Appraising eyes
But found it empty

Lines of names read like summaries
Each tiny line, a page
From somewhere, a small town obituary
And I, the empathizer
Wanted to cry
For their families,
For their torture,
For their sacrifice
But hour after hour I walked, listening
To decades of heart-wrenching history
Without shedding a single tear

But then I, the strangely dry
Did in fact finally cry just once

We, the architects designed
A city of memory
Piles of marble drenched in words –
“19 reflected statues makes 38 which represent that line of latitude on the globe where this war took place…”
?
We are telling these stories through the eyes
Of mid-twenties art students and sculptors from Shanghai –
No wonder these streets are empty to me.

No, I the crier finally found truth
With thirty men in red shirts
And cowboy boots
An army of wrinkles and wheel chairs rolled
On an ironic tour designed to guide them
To see what everyone else has built to remind them
What they saw serving tours all over the world

I did not cry for what they’d done,
But for everything I saw in their eyes
Standing at the foot of what someone said
Somehow,
Represents them
That statues or not,
They would do it again.

I wanted to hug them each
To kiss their cheeks, to tell them
That meeting them said more to me
Of every war’s reality than any carving
Of stone or gold – because war spills blood
And statues run cold
What I know of those times is confined
To high school text books and tour guides
While these men suffered insult and injury
The only symptom of their war, for me
Is freedom.
And somehow, I think
That means more to them
Than artsy abstract symbolism

“If you can read this, thank a teacher” his t-shirt said
“If you can read it in English, thank a Vet” –
and I did.

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§ 3 Responses to #113

  • A very good poem. As an ex soldier myself and with a long family history of fighting in wars, I’ve always thought less was more when it comes to War memorials. Just a personal opinion. In the past here in Australia each town would have just a cenetaph (a statue of a lone digger) with the names of the fallen on a plaque below, but now there are huge memorials all over the place. An interesting change.

  • dantrewear says:

    A thoughtful piece on a difficult topic, and well-written
    peace, –D

  • and I used to think that I am a pretty good writer.

    Then I joined WordPress.

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