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Memorial

When I was thirteen,
I walked down the
ivory steps
to the Tomb of the Unknown.
My eyes downcast, weighted
with the honor of my position and
concentrating on not
tripping.

I remember the whipping
wind and the somber
silence.
I remember the metallic
click of the soldier’s shoes
and the strange sound of birds
singing.
I remember my teacher’s
urgent plea to make
her proud.

I do not remember a moment
of realization, a stricken
comprehension of the true
cost of war.

No.
That came later, in a
seemingly disparate moment,
the catalyst a line of Nietzsche,
a note from “Danny Boy”
and a widow’s sobs.
The thought that maybe
the important thing
was to make the forgotten
proud by not forgetting
these moments of horrible understanding.

And—
physically left
unscarred by this exhausted war,
these moments continue to come,
watching our President walk
those very same ivory steps,
listening to him state
“There will need to be more
sacrifices.”

Wondering,
will he ever have
that
moment.
Will he sit with
Sheehan,
feel a funeral,
or stop
and, God forbid, think? —
admitting in humble tone
that there has been a mistake?

Or, more likely,
will he continue to keep
his eyes down,
concentrating,
alive, untouched, and in colossal vain,
on not tripping?

But this nation will
be kept disappointed,
souls starved for answers
and deeply felt compassion
met only with a photo-op.
A wreath for lost life.

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