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Memorial Day
by
Richard Greene


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Hopewell, New Jersey, May 2005


It was enough to make us weep, 

half a dozen veterans of the last great war

looking like fading away,

followed by the high school band,

booming bravely into adulthood.

Next a squad in Civil War uniform, 

harking back to the source of the holiday,

a fratricide that seems today

to have occurred in another country,

not just another century.

A retired Humvee 

with a small girl in back

wearing a grunt-style cap

and waving mechanically;  

vintage cars, 

big ones from a century ago

with wooden spokes

and other vestiges of their carriage genes,

still boxy ones from the 20s,

the streamlined 30s,

the fishtailed 50s,

a couple of Mustangs, an early Corvette;

then the fire engines, big and bigger,

like armor-plated rhinos,

our town’s brigade riding old fashioned red, 

others yellow, 

sage green from a well-heeled town nearby;

delegations of Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies,

one scout troop with a five-piece band

trying like twenty-five;

a motorcycle club,

plenty of paunch and gray hair,

and, though some ponytails,

suburban angels rather than Hells. 

Finally a platoon of kids

all safely helmeted,

one tireless on a pogo stick 

others on scooters and bikes

and even a few on tricycles,

training for future wars.

 

© by Richard Greene.
Used with the author’s permission.


Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Richard Greene began writing poetry in the 8th grade, inspired by the opening lines of Longfellow's “Evangeline”—“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks / Bearded in moss and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight"—which he was required to read in class. In college, after a classmate deemed Richard’s rhyming poem “trite,”  he stopped writing until, a couple of years later, a class with Henry Rago, subsequently editor of Poetry magazine, inspired him to resume his efforts. But poetry fell by the wayside for almost forty years as a busy career in international development consumed his life. As retirement approached, however, Richard’s dedication to poetry returned; he has now self-published a book (Explorations -Antrim House Books), and shares a "poem of the week" (get on the mailing list by requesting it at greeneplace@gmail.com). Learn more about Richard at www.greenepage.net.

 

 


Post New Comment:
barbsteff:
This poem tells the truth about life.
Posted 04/13/2018 03:47 PM
Jo:
Remember those small town parades--actually, there are a few of them left. Preparing for war has an ominous effect in that last line.
Posted 04/13/2018 12:39 PM
cork:
The celebratory mood ends with the last line of this poem which is the foil.
Posted 04/13/2018 09:29 AM
michael escoubas:
Wonderful poem, Richard. You must have been present for Memorial Day parades in my small mid-west town! Love the nostalgia, but surely you bring up an important point regarding how we think about war.
Posted 04/13/2018 08:18 AM


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