Timely Poems, Selected by Stephanie Carney

Memorial Day  by Richard Greene

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 Hell’s.
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.

Memorial Day  by Lynn Ungar

Perhaps it’s time for a new holiday.
Leave the last Monday in May
to honor those who died
in service to their nation.
Find a new date to mourn
those who died in service
of a nation’s faith in violence, its
dedication to the illusion of control,
religious fervor for the need to punish
whoever we tag as source
of our pain. Find a day to mourn
the unwilling martyrs to the cause.
Dwell for an hour or a silent minute
In the grief we keep trying to tuck away.
Empty your pockets
of the store of incredulity
you have gathered for so long.
Breathe through the horror
that it has happened again
and again and again and again.
For the flicker of a thought
admit that the murder of innocents
Is built into the system. Now turn
and find someone who has
a dream or a scheme of a different system.
Start with silence. Breathe together.
Only then, find a way to get loud.