I watch my neighbor back out of his driveway.
He told me he is going to his brother’s grave
to honor a fallen hero,
place flowers or a wreath
his wife and kids in tow,
a visit before a picnic and water-skiing.
I did not lose anyone in a war.
I have no death to remember.
My Dad survived the Merchant Marines.
Once he broke a man’s arm who tried to jump him.
My Step-Dad (Pork Chop Hill) and Father-in-Law (Battle of the Bulge)
fought in horrors they would never share.
My Sister-in-Law’s dad medaled in PTSD
before there was a name for it,
head in his hands in the dark,
sitting alone depressed for hours before he died young.
When Memorial Day comes, I ignore it,
avoid the flags, parades, sonorous music,
pierced by the sound of TAPS,
no picnics or water-skiing or golf,
perhaps cut the lawn.
No one I know died in a war.
Maybe that is why I want a different memorial on this day.
Maybe that is why I see the irony,
remembering what never should have happened.
Instead, my heart breaks when I see the rows and rows,
white boxes lined up in Heaven.
Reminds me of what war truly is
and why it is seldom honorable
but a sacrifice made to some unrelenting god
like the animal sacrifices of old,
striving to appease, never ending.
I know I am not supposed to feel that way,
believe instead that our freedom was won,
cling to the Truth like a flag clutched at the graveside,
guns saluting, honor saved.
I know better.
My neighbor cannot know what I believe.
I cannot ever mention it to him.
His brother died, not mine.
Originally published in The Literary Nest