Poem for the Fallen

Marion, IN

Reflections Near a VA Cemetery

My midday walk takes me along the way
That leads me toward broad trees and open green.
It skirts the yard where sleeping soldiers lay,
Their ordered stones project a somber scene

These kindred stones arranged in perfect rows,
Successive waves of metamorphic force
Are cushioned in the lap of spring’s repose.
Soft flowers, stones, raise sacred intercourse

And as I pause, I strain to hear, to know
Each name, each face, each life beneath each stone.
Each one compounds the weight of debt I owe
And calculates the worth of each seed sown.

Perhaps in this allotted plot is laid
A youth who postponed marriage to his lass.
She waited faithfully, she never strayed
Her shattered hopes now sown beneath this grass

I’m sobered by an anguished mother’s cries,
Down, bleeding in a hostile desert clime.
Remembering her son before she dies,
Imagines they’re together for all time.

I catch the sound of brothers hard at play,
The older volunteers to serve abroad.
The younger could not find the words to pray
The day he laid his brother in this sod.

Across the yard a father waves goodbye,
His gathered family braves his second tour.
His children wake to hear their mother’s cry
They huddle near her, feeling insecure.

The sounds of commerce just beyond the gate
Remind me that it’s late. I should return.
But not until I’ve learned to ruminate
On freedom’s price, its voices to discern.

The stories of our fallen stand like stone,
Attesting to the scope of our shared debt.
Sweet comfort with our loved ones safe at home
Will sour into shame if we forget.

--Michael J. Adams

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